Ruby's Pantry provides affordable food help in Minnesota

The cafeteria at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Morgan Park is packed with people carrying large bags, boxes, and clothes baskets. On the first Tuesday of every month, Ruby’s Pantry delivers over 300 food shares to distribute to the community. At Ruby’s Pantry, a program available through churches across Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, people of all income levels can pay $15 for a share of the non-profit’s donations, taking home about $75 in food.

Leah Goodwin

Ruby’s Pantry is hosted in Morgan Park at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.

“You have to wait, but I don’t know, you get some good stuff for the money,” said Mary Lee while waiting in line. She’s returning after being brought to Ruby’s Pantry previously with a co-worker.

“With the economy nowadays, everybody needs a little help,” Lee said.

“I’m raising some grandchildren and it really helps out,” said Cathy Myhre. “You get a decent amount of food, so it helps out a lot.”

Today, people are bringing home milk, eggs, potatoes, deli meat, yogurt, and ginger ale, among other things.

Joll Kimball, 10, hands out ginger ale near the end of the line. He and his mom volunteered for Ruby’s Pantry at the First United Methodist Church (the Coppertop) a few times and recently began volunteering in Morgan Park as well.

“I like volunteering,” Kimball said. “I’m a kind person, and I like helping others.”

The number of volunteers has grown from about 45, when the program began in June 2011, to 75 today.

“We have awesome volunteers that come out and do this,” said Marna Butler-Fasteland, one of the volunteers heading the program in Morgan Park.

She got involved with the program through her church, the United Protestant Church, which collaborates with St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church to host the monthly event.

Ruby's Pantry grocery loading

According to Butler-Fasteland, the food distributed at Ruby’s Pantry comes from corporate donations, with expiration dates closing in on many of the foods. Of the $15 share fee, $12 goes to Ruby’s Pantry, based out of Pine City, Minn., for overhead costs. The remaining $3 finds its way back into the community through outreach programs or providing special foods at the Pantry.

“At Christmastime, we went and bought some extra food supplies to give families food supplies they wouldn’t normally get at the pantry,” Butler-Fasteland said.

Ruby’s Pantry is run by Home and Away Ministries, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Home and Away Ministries takes its name from its main initiatives, Ruby’s Pantry at home, and missions in Mexico to establish long-term relationships with pastors and churchgoers abroad.

Home and Away Ministries sought nonprofit in 2003 to collect toys for children in Mexico. When they ended up with more food donations than toys, they began to distribute the food in local communities.

According to the Home and Away Ministries website, the ministry in Mexico stopped activity in 2010 amid violence between the government and drug cartels.

Ruby’s Pantry is named after Ruby A. Flodin, who lived in Western Wisconsin for 89 years before her death in 2000. According to the Ruby’s Pantry website, “she truly was the example of someone who realized that if you only have enough for yourself you don’t have enough.”

Ruby's Pantry distributes food in Duluth on the first Tuesday at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Morgan Park and the second Thursday at the First United Methodist Church (the Coppertop) of every month.

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