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Launching a new mission in the fight against food insecurity in the Metro East

"There are real problems that maybe we can't get at right way, this ain't one of them," said Soulcial Kitchen owner John Michel.

SWANSEA, Ill. — The latest effort in the fight against hunger has been launched in the Metro East, and it comes in a unique form: a food truck that used to be a plane that flew in World War II.

“She was a gooney bird. A C-47,” said John Michel.

Michel is the owner of Soulcial Kitchen in Swansea, Illinois. He has turned the retired plane into a food truck shaped like the space shuttle.

“All people are fascinated by space,” he said.

Michel, a retired U.S. Air Force general, intends to use the truck in his new mission of bringing awareness to food insecurity.

“It draws attention. It also communicates how serious we are about solving this problem,” he told 5 On Your Side.

He has a hard time understanding why some people don’t have a way to eat in America.

“There is no reason in America this should happen. Whole segments of neighborhoods that can’t get access to good, nutritious food. There are real problems that maybe we can’t get at right away. This ain’t one of them,” he said.

Credit: UPI
John Michel, owner of the Soulcial Kitchen, sits outside of his DC-3 airplane that was once used during World War II, now transformed into a food truck, in Swansea, Illinois on Tuesday January 4, 2022. The Space Shuttle Café recently opened by Michel as a food truck, looks like the Challenger space shuttle and was built at a estimated cost of $140,000, making hamburgers, french fries and milk shakes. The 39-foot fuselage was transformed from a war plane to a commercial aircraft that was reportedly once hijacked to Cuba. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Soulcial Kitchen is the headquarters for Michel’s mission.

“The mission is, working together we can make stronger communities,” he explained.

Michel’s plan is to unite people through the power of food.

“Power of food as a tool,” he said.

One of those tools is the Currency of Caring program. People can buy a token through the program and give it to a person in need to redeem at Soulcial Kitchen or one of its food trucks for a free meal.

"A way for all of us to make a deposit towards feeding people and communicating they’re cared about,” he said.

Michel believes the effort will benefit more than a person’s body.

“We’re feeding the soul at a deep level,” he said.

He wants the program to be a stimulus that stirs the souls of others to help make change.

“We wanna in our small way be a source of light to people. We’re using food to connect other people, to create a sense of community and create a sense of together. We are going to make a difference,” he vowed.

And it sounds as if Michel is committed to seeing a victory in his mission.

“We win when no one goes to bed hungry,” he said.

If you want to learn more about Soulcial Kitchen and the programs including the “Love Thy Neighbor” initiative, visit the Soulcial Kitchen website here.