In the summer of 2021, a woman came to get lunch at Shobi’s Table, a pay-as-you-can food truck started by Christ Lutheran Church (105 University Ave. W.), just because she saw the big blue truck as she drove by. She loved the meal so much that she came back the next week. As she didn’t have any money to offer, but wanted to give something in thanks, she gave Shobi a single yellow rose.
In 2021 alone, Shobi’s served 4,691 meals through the food truck, and brought 932 meals to other partner ministries and organizations.
When Kari Olsen was first asked to consider working with the food truck, she had some initial ideas of what she thought Shobi’s Table should become. It wasn’t until she met someone connected with One World Everybody Eats (OWEE) that it became very clear. OWEE is a national network of pay-as-you-can cafes in the United States. This network helps start cafes and provides the support to thrive.
“Hearing more about how it all worked, I knew the pay-as-you-can model was exactly what I wanted to try for Shobi’s Table,” Olsen said. “Over the last three years it has been wonderful to see it blossom as a way to make delicious, quality meals served to everyone in a dignified way, no matter what they can pay.”
Olsen has worked for Shobi’s Table since 2018. She is a deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and said she felt called to be the director and mission developer of Shobi’s Table. Shobi’s Table food truck has three locations: Tuesdays at 105 University Ave. W., Thursdays at 499 Charles Ave., and Fridays at 400 Snelling Ave St. Lunch is served from noon-1 p.m. at each location.
“Some of my work is there [in the kitchen], some is more administrative and development, and some of it is in shaping how this ministry is preaching good news,” Olsen said. “Sometimes that takes the form of preaching in different churches around the area, but mostly it means cultivating a language and experience of welcome to each person who comes to the food truck – whether that be to volunteer or to eat, to support, or all three.”
Shobi’s provides meals made from scratch. These meals contain nutrients one needs for a healthy body, but Olsen also mentioned that they are infused with the love, inherent in food made from scratch. This kind of quality food, without the boundary of a price on a menu, can also provide dignity in creating a way for people to offer what they can in exchange, whether there is no money involved, $10, or inviting a neighbor to come with them next time.
Shobi’s Table creates meals from rescued groceries from Twin Cities Food Justice, an organization that works to reduce food waste and hunger by creating a link between those willing to help and those in need. Shobi’s is also hoping to collaborate with local farmers in the future.
“We believe everyone deserves access to healthy food,” Olsen said. “Not everyone has the resources of time and money for this. We know we can’t solve this for everyone all the time, but we believe that providing access to nutritious meals a few times a week, no matter what you can pay, can make a difference.”
According to Feeding America, the largest hunger relief-organization in the United States, 1 in 13 people in Minnesota are currently facing hunger. This means that more than 430,000 Minnesotans struggle to get access to meals every day. Shobi’s Table is one of only three pay-as-you-can cafés in Minnesota connected to the national network of OWEE.
“Our community is so beautifully diverse – economically, socially, and racially,” Olsen said. “A pay-as-you-can cafe is a place where people can come together across those differences to receive bread for their hunger from a good meal, a dignified experience, and an opportunity to offer our respective needs and resources at the same table.”
Olsen said that community members can help Shobi’s by visiting the food truck for lunch. They need those who can pay and those who can’t to make the food truck work. Volunteer and donation opportunities can be found at https://shobistable.org/.
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