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Food truck customized for True Bethel’s new ministry

There’s a new food truck preparing to hit the streets of Buffalo, but you’re not going to see it parked in trendy entertainment districts.

“Bread of Heaven,” a food truck with a mission, is the latest ministry of True Bethel Baptist Church. It represents a 180-degree turn from what Pastor Darius G. Pridgen first envisioned as a money-making venture for the church a couple of years ago.

“In searching for the truck, it was almost like a moment of illumination,” Pridgen recalled.

“I realized that the church has done several for-profit ventures in order to keep people employed. But there was a segment of the community that would not be able to afford to purchase food from a food truck – or any other place.

“In my heart, I decided to try to find a food truck in order to feed those who are homeless, malnourished and in areas where I know there is a financial struggle,” Pridgen said.

After the pastor shared his new vision with his staff, Cambridge Boyd, a church elder, took over the search. “He really did the legwork,” Pridgen said.

A used taco truck was found in Texas, with an owner willing to negotiate on the price. A “tremendous financial contribution” from a member of the congregation was used toward the purchase, with the church paying for the balance and the cost of customizing it.

The truck has a large refrigerator, a triple utility sink and separate hand sink, as well a propane-fueled grill and two deep fryers. There are several electrical outlets along one wall to accommodate cooktops.

“Everything on the inside is brand new and was built just for our use,” Pridgen said.

Another part of the customization was installing exterior speakers. “We wanted to be able to ride through the neighborhoods like the ice cream man,” the pastor joked.

The song that eventually will be broadcast is being written by Pridgen’s wife, Monique.

And graphics still need to be designed for the exterior. Pridgen said that the first design he saw was “too cartoony.”

It’ll be at least a month before the truck is able to hit the streets.

True Bethel also is working its way through the standard bureaucratic red tape in City Hall – the inspections and permits required of all food truck operators. “No special treatment for the church,” said Pridgen, who also happens to be the Common Council president.

“Bread of Heaven” will not be competing with the for-profit food trucks, Pridgen emphasized. “We have no intention to ever be in areas where they are,” he said.

And, despite the fact that True Bethel’s base of operations is on East Ferry Street, the ministry will extend throughout the city.

“This will not be an East Side truck. It will be a needs-side truck,” Pridgen said.

As word of the new ministry is spreading, Pridgen said he has received many offers of support. They range from a for-profit food truck operator seeking a partnership with True Bethel to an offer by a “major chef” in the city to help develop the menu.

“We didn’t realize that this would go beyond True Bethel’s ministry going into neighborhoods,” Pridgen said.

The truck will be staffed exclusively by volunteers and stocked with donated food. Details are being worked out as to when and where it will stop.

“We’ve already had certain block clubs reach out to us to help with their events. These are struggling neighborhoods,” Pridgen said.

The truck will have healthy food options and provide recipes for foods not typically consumed in inner-city neighborhoods; Pridgen noted that he grew up on the East Side without ever having eaten zucchini.