Food trucks have become increasingly popular in recent years as they bring fun, fast and affordable food to the masses. Equipped with deep fryers, cooktops, ovens and more, food trucks are literally a kitchen on wheels. It's no wonder that churches are jumping on the food truck "bandwagon." Combining food, fellowship and ministry, these North Georgia churches are bringing folks, food and fellowship together in new and exciting ways.
Two years ago, Dacula UMC launched an ambitious ministry project called Food Truck 316. The clever name comes from the famed Bible verse John 3:16, but also from Highway 316 which is a central artery through the Dacula/North Gwinnett area.
The idea for the food truck grew out of a year-end leadership training meeting. The church had some funds available for ministry and wanted to determine the best way to use it. They were looking for a "God-sized dream project" that would impact a lot of people. From the back of the room, church member Jim Meeker offered the first idea: "What if we had a food truck that we could use for missions and community events?" From there, the ideas started flowing quickly and a new ministry was formed.
Through private contributions from members and friends, as well as a grant from the United Methodist Office of Congregational Development, the church was able to buy a used dry-cleaning delivery truck from Chicago and give it a new life. In total, they raised just over $100,000 to put the dream into action.
Last fall, the truck made its debut at a school festival and other community events. The truck is completely volunteer staffed and self-funded. For every meal they sell, they can produce 2-3 meals to give away for free. Selling food at community events helps to fund the mission part.
"Right now, it's going out at least once per month for mission where we give away food to those in need, then we'll take it out when we are invited to a community event. Everything is dependent on our partnerships with other ministries and non-profits in the area so we can comply with various county ordinances.
The church is continually looking for ways to grow the ministry by securing new partners and more equipment so they can serve even more people.
While it doesn't have a food truck of its own, College Park UMC recently incorporated food trucks into their programming. Last year the church launched "Savory Sundays" as an opportunity for food trucks and folks to gather on Sunday evenings.
Rev. Katy Hinman admits that she "stole" the idea from St. James UMC in Dunwoody. Hinman was looking for a way to build community in College Park on Sunday nights when most of their local restaurants are closed.
The event usually draws a crowd of 100 or so – and it's mostly community members, not regular church-goers.
"It's been a great way to meet people in the community that I've never met before and see a larger cross-section of what College Park really looks like," said Hinman. She hopes to add some ministry partnerships and offer more community services at the event in the future.
Rachel Quartarone is a freelance writer (and United Methodist) in Atlanta.
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Through the Four Areas of Focus churches are Engaging in ministry with the poor with their communities in ways that are transformative.