RANTOUL — A food service aimed at saving money through bulk purchasing will start next month in northern Champaign County.
It will mark the third such program to have started in Rantoul. The first two ceased local operations.
Smart Choice Food Source will have a Nov. 19 food distribution at Community Service Center, 520 E. Wabash Ave., Rantoul. It will replace the Angel Food Ministry program, which folded in September.
Because the service is so new, a time has not yet been set for the November distribution, according to Nancy Brown, who will head the program locally.
J.C. Neff, who will direct the Smart Choice program in Illinois (so far 31 communities have signed up), said the program is only about a year old. Located in Mineral Ridge, Ohio, it is serving its home state as well as Illinois and Indiana.
One major difference is that Smart Choice will be a for-profit operation, whereas the Angel Food Ministry and its predecessor, the Share Food program, were not-for-profits.
"Their decisions will be made in the company's interest," Neff said. "That means we're going to have to take care of the customer and provide a good box for the company (to remain operational)."
Brown said another difference will be that produce will not be available, at least initially. All items will be trucked frozen. She said that should save the company money.
"The produce is so difficult to transport," Neff said, "so when we're transporting it on trucks, then you have to (separate it) and put the non-frozen items up front.
"There was a lot of spoilage (of produce) with Angel Food, and you'd have to replace it."
Food will be distributed from Cincinnati. The Angel Food items were trucked from Georgia, and the farther distance drove up costs.
Brown said online orders can't be made yet. Orders for the November distribution in Rantoul will be taken from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday at Community Service Center.
"All we'll be able to take is cash and checks," Brown said. "On a later date we hope to do the online credit cards and debit cards. We also hope to use Link cards (eventually)."
Brown said the Smart Choice program is one of two that she helped to check out.
"This one we decided we wanted to get in on the ground floor," she said. "Hopefully this will alleviate some of the problems with the other food programs."
Brown stressed that the program isn't just for low-income people. Anyone can participate.
As with the other programs, "if you eat, you qualify," she said.
The Share Food program was in operation in Rantoul for 16 years. A month after it ceased operations in December, it was replaced locally by the Angel Food program, but it lasted only seven months.