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A Minnesota pastor’s pulpit: Not just your ordinary food truck

Sunday, August 24, 2014
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Pastor Margaret Kelly runs the food truck ministry Shobi's Table on Payne Avenue in St. Paul, Minn which feeds those in need homemade calzones she makes from scratch on Thursday, Aug. 14,Scott Takushi, AP

Pastor Margaret Kelly runs the food truck ministry Shobi’s Table on Payne Avenue in St. Paul, Minn which feeds those in need homemade calzones she makes from scratch on Thursday, Aug. 14,

Mobile Action agreed to loan Kelly its 28-foot, $100,000 vehicle one day a week. Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in St. Paul lets Kelly do food preparation work in its kitchen. Kelly, who once worked as a head cook for the Concordia French Language Village in northern Minnesota and in the meat department at the Wedge co-op grocery in Minneapolis, does the recipe and food planning.

“She is uniquely gifted for this ministry,” Erickson said.

Kelly settled on calzones cooked from scratch as the truck’s specialty. It’s a hand pie, a comfort food common in many cultures and adaptable to healthy fillings.

The church’s name is Shobi’s Table, after an obscure Old Testament figure who offered food to a potential enemy, King David, and his followers.

According to Kelly, it’s a story of “radical hospitality.”

Kelly served her first meal from the truck on April 17. That was Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter that is a commemoration of Christ’s Last Supper.

On a recent Thursday at 11 a.m., the truck was parked at its usual spot on the curb outside the Family Dollar store at 1055 Payne Ave.

Over the next couple hours, a steady stream of people — old ladies, kids on bikes, youths in baggy pants — wandered up to the serving window, frequently asking, “It’s free?” and being told, “It’s free. Come and get it.”

David Schoeppner, 45, came to get a calzone for himself and his girlfriend. He said they live on Social Security checks.

“We barely are surviving,” he said. He said an alternative is a free lunch at a Salvation Army facility down the street, but “the calzones are awesome.”

“Once you know it’s here, you come here,” he said.

“Being homeless, news travels fast,” said Marshall Johnson, 56, who said he comes to the food truck “when I’m really hungry. I don’t abuse it.”

“They’re good people. They don’t have to come out and serve us,” he said.

Just like downtown office workers and bar hoppers, people who don’t have a lot of money appreciate the convenience and fun vibe of a food truck. For some people, going to a food truck feels less intimidating than going inside of a building to get a meal.

“Just the energy is different when people can walk up,” Kelly said. “This is something that pulls up into the neighborhood that feels safe to encounter.”

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