The Big Red Truck

There’s a Chinese proverb that goes: Give a person a fish and you’ve fed them for a day; teach a person how to fish and you’ve fed them for a lifetime.

Question: How does a church move from handing out food to helping people provide food for themselves?

Answer: With the help of a Big Red Truck.

The Big Red Truck at Northminster

The idea of a mobile grocery store is the dream of Joel Ingram, Virginia Baptist Mission Board employee and Baptist Seminary at Richmond graduate. Joel has been traveling the country learning how churches can shift their food ministries from handing out fish to teaching people how to fish.

The Big Red Truck is a re-purposed Coca-Cola delivery truck. It has a freezer, refrigerator, generator, and storage space for the kind of food and paper products you find in a grocery store.

When it pulled onto Northminster’s lawn and opened for a first day of business, there was a high level of excitement. The goal is to establish a Northside Food Co-op which will allow neighbors to pool their buying power and partner with local non-profits (like Embrace Richmond and Shalom Farms) to achieve low prices for good food.

Providing food to hungry people is at the center of the church’s mission. In Matthew 25 Jesus said, “I was hungry and you fed me.” His faithful followers were puzzled, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food?” Jesus responded, “When you did it to one of the least of your brothers or sisters, you did it to me.” The first official ministry of the church was a daily distribution of food to the poor (Acts 6).

Northminster had a food pantry when I arrived. Each week designated Sunday School classes would bring non-perishables and when a poor neighbor knocked on the church’s door and asked for food, the church secretary would pack them a bag.

Jeanne and Carl Murdock took Northminster’s food pantry to the next level by establishing a Saturday distribution in cooperation with neighbor congregations. They grew the ministry by attracting volunteers from the church, the neighborhood, and VCU. Most important, they recognized that first and foremost the pantry was a vehicle for developing relationships.

For some time we have been ready to take the next step with our food ministry—transitioning from giving away fish to teaching people how to fish. Thanks to the Big Red Truck we’re making the change by birthing a food co-op.

The mobile grocery store is at Northminster on the third Saturday morning of each month. Stop by and check it out.

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