The nonprofit Ashland Food Angels, who save and distribute a quarter-million pounds of potentially wasted fresh food a year, have lost their delivery van and need another one. Right away.

Their van, a 22-year old Mercury Villager, died Saturday and can’t be fixed, says Angels director Pamala Joy. They are filling in with 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 because markets are closed that day. If she picks up veggies from a market that turn out to be unusable, she takes 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 for more Food Angel volunteers.

“It’s a grass roots 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.”

The Angels are part of a big area safety net, picking up surplus, outdated or slightly damaged fresh food from Market of Choice, Shop n Kart, Ashland Food Co-op, 10 organic farms and other sources.

They deliver it to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, the Ashland Food Project (Green Bag 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.