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Angels winging it

The nonprofit Ashland Food Angels, who saves and distributes a quarter-million pounds of potentially wasted fresh food a year, has lost its delivery van and needs another one. Right away.

The 22-year-old Mercury Villager died Saturday and can’t be fixed, says Angels director Pamela Joy. She and her volunteers are using a loaned vehicle but desperately need a replacement, as they pick up produce daily from markets, restaurants and farmers and deliver it to the hungry every day but Christmas — and that’s only because markets are closed that day. If they pick up veggies from a market that turn out to be unusable, they take the greens to a local sheep farmer for the sheep to eat.

Joy created the Angels in 1995 and has coordinated a staff of 20 volunteers since then. She’d like to step back and is looking for someone to replace her as well as more volunteers.

“It’s a grassroots organization that fills a gap that larger, government-sponsored agencies like ACCESS are not reaching,” she said. “We keep good food out of landfills and get it into the hands of people so it can be eaten instead of becoming part of our great American waste.”

Food Angels is part of a big area safety net, picking up surplus, outdated or slightly damaged fresh food from Market of Choice, Shop'n Kart, Ashland Food Co-op, 10 organic farms and other sources.

Volunteers deliver the food to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, the Ashland Food Project, Uncle Food’s Diner (Tuesday meals at Ashland Methodist Church), the Friday Peace Meals at Pioneer Hall and other outlets.

They operate on a “frugal” annual budget of $6,000 to $9,000, some of which comes from the co-op and the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser. No one gets paid.

Joy trains volunteers and they each work four to five hours a week. They also find and distribute some household goods to such agencies as the Maslow Project for homeless teens, the Gospel Mission and Teresa McCormick Center.

Joy operates the whole project out of her modest house and garage, the latter crammed with refrigerators, shelves and buckets. She holds frequent yard sales to help pay expenses.

“I’m part of the connective tissue and I coordinate everyone and make sure it runs,” she says.

To volunteer or donate a van, email ashlandfoodangels@gmail.org, go to www.ashlandfoodangels.org or call 541-482-5330.

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Pamela Joy cleans radishes donated at her home in Ashland Monday. [Daily Tidings / Andy Atkinson]