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A hand up against hunger

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Instead of seeking food donations, the Superior program wants to hand it out.

For a year and a half, Ruby’s Pantry has been providing shares of food at two different sites in Superior, Zion Lutheran Church and Christ Lutheran Church. For a $15 donation, participants walk away with nearly $100 worth of food. There are no income limits, and those who participate can share the food with anyone they choose. About 270 shares are handed out at each site monthly, according to Fred Guist, one of the coordinators.

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“It is a good thing for the community,” he said, but “Not enough people know about it.”

Guist and his wife Patty, who live in Duluth, worked for a year to bring the program to Superior. They were prompted to do so by the need they saw at the Faith United Methodist Church food pantry, Guist said.

“And a lot of people couldn’t make it over to Duluth,” he said.

Last week, dozens of volunteers unloaded pallets, bagged food and handed it out to people. Items included chicken, potatoes, bread, juice, eggs, cucumbers and granola bars. It’s all donated food close to the use-by date, Guist said, and the items are different each month.

Randi Wheeler of Hawthorne has been volunteering with the food program for about a month.

“I like it, it seems to help a lot of people,” she said, and it brings the community together. Her 10-year-old son, Tyler, worked with her to set up rice for distribution.

“I just love the community service,” said volunteer Crystal Shaul. “This is a good program to help people out. You’re helping them fulfill a food need for a small amount of money.”

Amanda Brown and Miranda Stoddard of Superior teamed up to hand out bottled water and juice.

“I love helping people,” Stoddard said. The volunteer work looks good on a college application, Brown said.

“You make new friends,” said volunteer Nell Loughren.

In the church sanctuary, people of all ages waited for their number to be called. Some had small children with them; others were seniors. Each had a story. Some said food distributions like Ruby’s Pantry and Sharing One’s Surplus in Poplar help bridge the gap before social security or disability benefits kick in. Some give much of it away to their family members or neighbors. In these tough economic times, people said, programs like this help.

Ruby’s Pantry is an outreach program of the nonprofit Home and Away Ministries Inc. in Pine City, Minn. It supplies food to 39 sites in communities throughout northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, including Duluth and Superior.

It offers a hand up, not a hand out.

Superior distributions take place on the second Monday of the month at Zion Lutheran Church and the third Thursday of the month at Christ Lutheran Church, 320 N. 28th St. E. The next distribution takes place Thursday at Christ Lutheran Church, 320 N. 28th St. E. The doors open at 4:30 p.m. with distribution beginning at 5 p.m. The $15 donation must be in cash. Checks are not accepted.

For more information or to volunteer, call Guist at 218-626-3613, check out the Facebook page Ruby’s Pantry- Superior, WI or visit www.rubyspantry.org.

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