the Anarchist Love Train

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : March 28, 2007

For a while, we’ve been scheming about converting a van into a sort of mobile soup-kitchen.  We’ll call it the “Anarchist Love Train.”  The idea is to go out twice a week for a few hours at a time, feeding folks in the metro Twin Cities.  If we hit the same places each week at roughly the same time, we’re hoping that people will anticipate our arrival and eat some of our food.  Call it a missional soup kitchen.

We need to find a big enough van (preferably of the sort that one can stand up in), and a way to power cooling/heating elements.  A propane stove would work with proper ventilation, but I don’t know how to wire it for a fridge…I’m assuming we’d need to do something heavier-duty than connecting it to the battery.

Missio Dei could probably cover the cost of insurance, and I have no doubt we could cover the food costs…but the cost of the van and equipment, and the engineering to convert the vehicle into a mobile soup kitchen will require some outside help. 

Do any of you have an old van that runs that they’d be willing to sell for cheap?

Do any of you have the know-how required to make the van into a kitchen?

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15 Responses to “the Anarchist Love Train”

  1. Jeshua Franklin on March 28th, 2007 9:46 pm

    Hey Mark…..out here in California we have lots of what are called taco trucks. Essentially they’re Mexican restaurants on wheels, but they have fairly well equipped kitchens. Maybe if you look them up it will lead you on to something.

  2. markvans on March 28th, 2007 9:50 pm

    Hey Jeshua! (you’re the Jeshua I met in San Francisco, right?)

    I think that may be a good way to go, though they tend to be a bit expensive. If I can get one for cheap (or donation) then I’d be ecstatic. However, a cheap alternative would be an inexpensive used van fitted with a bare minimum of equipment run on propane.

  3. Anna on March 29th, 2007 7:49 am

    This idea sounds like a Food Not Bombs type of thing. They’d have lots of tips on doing the coversions.

    A small camper trailer might work also, if somebody has the truck to tow it. There is a ‘Bratwurst Haus’ that does brisk business at lunch time in our town on this basis.

  4. Corey on March 29th, 2007 8:43 am

    Hey Mark,
    I’ve got a conversion van that I want to get rid of…It leaks oil like crazy, but drives. It’s even got a tv and vcr that don’t work! You can have it if you want it.

  5. fargo john on March 29th, 2007 1:38 pm

    when you’re not serving meals out of your van, can i live in it? we haven’t talked in ages, or so it seems. i am looking for an opportunity to make my way to the cities soon. i will keep you informed.

  6. markvans on March 29th, 2007 1:42 pm

    Corey…I think we’re looking for something with a larger interior than a conversion van (those are the sort of vans that families love for long trips, right). We’re thinking more along the lines of a cargo van or the smaller sized sort of van/truck that uhaul rents out.

  7. markvans on March 29th, 2007 1:43 pm

    Yeah John, it has been a while. I look forward to seeing you again.

  8. JVD on March 29th, 2007 2:28 pm

    I want to work on the love train - let me know when it is up and running - I may even be able to help with some $$ for this Mark - JVD

  9. More Fire on March 29th, 2007 3:01 pm

    In NYC we have alot of those “taco trucks”, but they are usually serving everything from shwarma to bagels. There’s a big orange van that serves great coffee. It’s called the Mud Truck.

    I wish I could offer some more tangible advice. But I just want to say I support what you’re doing and will at least offer up a prayer that a van is provided. More fire!

  10. Surly Dave on March 29th, 2007 6:05 pm

    Why don’t you ask “Chef” Surly Dave. He might have some ideas. Also, he’s familiar with the local sanitation laws. Of course, being an anarchist, you probably don’t care about that. ;)

  11. Daniel on March 29th, 2007 7:14 pm

    Depending on what you are thinking of you could use an Inverter to run a couple of electric burners (and a fridge) off of the battery in the van. Either keep the thing running while you are stopped or get the biggest diehard battery you can find, but I think it could be made to work. Might have to run an extra set of wire into the bed of the van, but I think it would work.

    What kind of regulations does the city have on this type of thing?

    PEace courage joy

  12. Surly Dave on March 29th, 2007 8:03 pm

    Minneapolis is very strict on their food prep and serving laws , however, there is “grace” (if a municipality is capable of such) for good Samaritans. Example: If you have a catered event, you can donate the left overs to a half way house with out worrying about the transportation laws. Of course, the food can’t sit in your trunk for a couple days before you drop it off. It still has to be safe. A lot of entertainers have riders in their contracts that the left overs from the back stage parties are donated to charity.

    However, Minneapolis is a communist strong hold, so they might give you a pass because your being charitable. At the same time, they love taxing people, so they’ll struggle with not making you pony up.

    Personally, I’d think about getting an old concessions trailer. Buy your food prepared at a certified kitchen, and then all you have to do is reheat. I can help you with the particulars, seeing that I’ve kind of dealt with this before. (Remember, I had a catering business). In fact, I’m surprised you didn’t ask me about this before.

    Buy the way, if you have the trailer, you can then do some fund raisers and such. I know that would involve handling money…

    Just teasing.

    Another thing would be to prepare the food fresh, right in front of people. Then it’s sort of a portable BBQ. It depends on where you set up. Or, like that some guy out in Oregon I read about, he had a portable gas burner and prepared omelets for the homeless and carried his food stuffs in a couple of coolers.

  13. markvans on March 29th, 2007 10:05 pm

    Thanks! Dave–I don’t know why I didn’t think of you right away. I’d love to talk to you about ideas. This sort of thing could really do a lot of good, and be the sort of thing that gives Jesus a good name. I think it would also do Christians some good to be involved with teh Anarchist Love Train.

  14. markvans on March 29th, 2007 10:08 pm


    You sound like someone who knows how to do such stuff. I have no idea what an inverter even is. Once we have a vehicle, would you be willing to help with electrical stuff?

  15. daniel on March 30th, 2007 5:56 pm


    I’ll look into it to make sure that there is only a 20% chance of my burning the van to the ground :) and send you the details. If it does look doable I’ll let you know late next week.


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