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Ruby's Pantry celebrates milestone

Food is delivered to Ruby's Pantry at First United Methodist Church in large quantities and unloaded by a forklift in the spring of 2013. (Photo submitted)

On Sept. 18 at First United Methodist ("copper-top") Church, boxes of food will be moved from semi trucks and delivered for the 50th time. Ruby's Pantry of Duluth will celebrate its 50th distribution of shares to the Duluth community.

"We started distribution almost four years ago," said Susan Anderson, a member of the Ruby's Pantry steering committee. "Our Ruby's Pantry distributes food on the third Thursday of every month."

The food for each distribution varies, with staples of bread, potatoes and chicken. Each "share" costs $20 and is available to anyone.

"The neat thing about Ruby's Pantry is that there are no income guidelines," Anderson said. "For many working families, they may not qualify for a lot of food programs. We describe Ruby's as a way to stretch your grocery dollar."

This non-restrictive ideal allows for a diverse mix of purchasers on each distribution day.

"We have some people utilizing Ruby's Pantry who are very low-income, but we also have young families and this really helps them out with their monthly budget," Anderson said. "We get students who come for an apartment share. We get seniors on limited budgets."

Volunteers often are curious of those who seem "too well off" for the inexpensive food.

"People from certain income brackets will come and make you wonder why they are going to Ruby's Pantry, but then you realize they are paying for their neighbor, their friend, their grandchild, their grandparent," Anderson said. "It's a real mix of people."

Ruby's Pantry began as a project in Pine City and migrated to Duluth through a woman named Barb Hill.

"Barb Hill was aware of a distribution in Moose Lake," Anderson said. "She thought this was something that we should really have available in Duluth. Barb, who has since died, got the program on its feet, and then she became very ill and we lost her. She was only with Ruby's Pantry Duluth for about a year. But this is part of her legacy."

The driving force behind keeping Ruby's Pantry going, however, is the volunteers.

"Every month we have 40-50 volunteers, some with organizations, some regulars, and every time there are new people," Anderson said. "Everyone in Duluth can be a volunteer. We have no paid staff."

Barb Kelly says volunteering for Ruby's Pantry is beneficial to her as well.

"The most rewarding part of Ruby's Pantry is seeing how happy people are to have the program," Kelly said. "They are very grateful. It makes you feel good."

For the 50th Anniversary Distribution on Sept. 18, which will be proclaimed "Ruby's Pantry Day" by Duluth Mayor Don Ness, there will be special drawings and prizes, including a free share of food and a variety of gift cards. The distribution will take place at the First United Methodist Church 5:30-7 p.m.

In addition to the First United Methodist Church, Ruby’s Pantry is also available at these Twin Port locations:

+ Hermantown: Peace in Christ Lutheran Church, 5007 Maple Grove Road, second Tuesday of each month, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

+ Morgan Park: Hosted by United Protestant Church and St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, 8830 Idaho St., first Tuesday of the month. Doors open 3:30 p.m., distribution starts 4:30 p.m. and ends approximately at 6 p.m.

+ Superior: Hosted by Christ Lutheran Church, 320 N 28th St. E., fourth Thursday of the month. November and December distributions re-scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16. Doors open 4:30 p.m., distribution starts at 5 p.m. and ends approximately at 6:30 p.m.

For a complete listing of Minnesota and Wisconsin Ruby’s Pantry locations, visit

If You Go

What: Ruby's Pantry 50th Distribution

When: 5:30-7 p.m. Sept. 18

Where: First United Methodist Church, 230 E. Skyline Pkwy.