By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A north Minneapolis church is missing a crucial piece of equipment.

Someone stole an industrial-size smoker last Wednesday from Gethsemane Lutheran Church. It’s a tool that helps feed dozens of people in need every week.

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The aromas have been missing almost a week now at Gethsemane, where the mission is clearly stated, according to Pastor Jeff Nehrbass.

“To provide food, good food, culturally-specific food to our neighbors on our blocks, to address what is one of the five largest food deserts in the country,” Nehrbass said.

He sees the realities of food insecurity in his part of the city, due to high barriers to food access and low levels of income. The smoker was a gift to the church that helped make a world of difference.

Neighbor Rohini Dawes says the theft is a serious blow to her community.

(credit: Pastor Jeff Nehrbass)

“It makes me sad because the smoker is important. There’s a lot of people in our community that comes here on a daily basis, I would say, for the food that they cook here,” Dawes said.

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Pastor Nehrbass says the church was serving between 1,300 to 1,500 people every single day during the unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd last summer.

The church also operates a food shelf and distributes food so different parts of the neighborhood can get what they need. Nehrbass says last year they served 1.2 million pounds of food to 35,000 people.

Not having the smoker on the Fourth of July was especially a major loss, and it’s not just the 80 to 100 meals that it serves up. It’s that sense of community that comes from gathering.

“Talking about … what’s going on on your block. None of that stuff is happening because food does that,” Nehrbass said. “Food brings people together.”

The pastor says he doesn’t want to press charges against whoever took the smoker. The most important thing is just getting it back.

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“Please bring it back because it’s important to our community,” Dawes said.

David Schuman