|Packing Rolls for Distribution|
at Ruby's Pantry
Ruby’s Pantry is one outreach program of a 501(c)(3) evangelical Christian organization called Home and Away Ministries, Inc. Ruby’s Pantry states its mission like this: "To procure and distribute corporate surplus food and goods to help fight poverty, hunger and disease in rural communities in the United States for those with low resources and in crisis through churches, food shelves and other local civic organizations."
All food distributed by Ruby’s Pantry has been donated to the central warehouse in North Branch, MN. From there it goes out to rural areas and small communities, mostly in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, where 29 local churches or church groups hold Ruby’s Pantry distribution events, typically once a month.
We arrived at the Armory in Cloquet on the 4th Wednesday of June at 8:30 AM in a rainstorm with heavy winds. About 30 people were already crowded into the lobby waiting for the doors to open at 10:30. So that additional people wouldn’t have to wait outside in the rain, volunteers opened the doors as soon as there were chairs set up for them, began registration early, and announced to those who registered that distribution would start at 10:30 instead of 11:00. There are no qualifications for receiving food at Ruby’s Pantry, but each person is asked to register by name, make a donation of $15, and receive a number indicating their place in line to receive food.
|Chris Egelkraut & Richard Moeding|
All the portions and setup were kept smoothly running by a host church representative, Pastor Rex Clyde, as well as two people from Ruby’s Pantry – operations manager Chris Egelkraut and truck driver Richard Moeding.
The food distributed differs each time, depending on what Ruby's Pantry has received in donations. Here’s what each person received the day we were there:
- 1 package of frozen barbecued beef ribs
- 2 packages of frozen chicken breast meat
- 1 bag of stuffing (larger than the supermarket size)
- 1 restaurant-sized can of vegetables such as peas, baked beans, beans, red kidney beans
- 1 bag of frozen scrambled eggs
- 2 loaves of cranberry walnut bread
- 1 bag of 15 frozen cheese rolls
- 3 cases of yogurt, each containing 12 Yoplait Splitz
- 6 cellophane tubes of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, equivalent to 3 boxes of cookies
- 32 ounces of whipping cream
- 6 pints of sweet tea
- Choice of 1 miscellaneous item (e.g., a grab bag of 10 small items, or 1 large item such as a large bottle of cooking oil)
|Registering (top) and Setting Up (bottom)|
About 700 people have registered for the Cloquet Ruby’s Pantry so far this year. As is about typical, 202 people received food the day we were there, and about 8 new customers were turned away at the end of the morning when there were no more shares available.
One thing that impressed us about Ruby’s Pantry is the large reliance on good-hearted volunteers and donations. All the food is donated, all the on-site labor is done by volunteers and the CIP inmates, the Armory rental fee is waived for charitable organizations, and local stores donate bags and lend shopping carts. Some of the donation dollars go back to Ruby’s Pantry to help pay for transportation, and the remainder stays with the local sponsoring organization, which uses it for other charitable purposes.
|Volunteers serving at Ruby's Pantry|
All in all, Ruby’s Pantry had the feel of a community coming together to provide affordable food for everyone in need.