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Katie Hoyt, right, helps Bill Wintlend as they move a pallet of yogurt in the pouring rain into Zion Lutheran Church in Superior on Monday afternoon for a Ruby’s Pantry distribution, the last at the Superior church. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Then there was one

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For nearly two years, Ruby’s Pantry has been distributing food at two churches in Superior.

Monday marked the final distribution at Zion Lutheran Church. A low number of participants prompted the move to a single distribution point in Superior, according to volunteer Nell Loughren.

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“Overhead costs continued to increase and the number of participants has decreased,” she said. Local volunteers told participants Monday that the nonprofit corporation was looking to distribute 300 shares per site each month, but they have only sold 200 to 250.

Ruby’s Pantry offers food donated by large corporations to the public. Each $20 share provides enough food to fill up a laundry basket or two, and people can buy as many shares as they want. There are no income guidelines to meet — anyone who eats qualifies.

“Although the food distributed is donated by manufacturers, the costs for warehousing and trucking food to various sites is not free,” Loughren said. There is also a cost for any non-consumable supplies needed to distribute the foods at each site.

“We need to bring our numbers up,” said Belinda Sternberg, who coordinates the remaining distributions at Christ Lutheran Church. Ruby’s Pantry, based in North Branch, Minn., has two goals — to provide food to those in need and to provide money that can be distributed to other community organizations.

“In months past, we have not had the participation to make a profit over what we pay Ruby’s to provide the food,” Sternberg said. “It is critical, if you can, to send a pledge to participate in the program to keep it going and so we can assist other organizations.”

Hundreds of families took home about 500 shares of food from the first Ruby’s Pantry distribution in Superior, held in September 2012 at Zion Lutheran Church. A second distribution site opened at Christ Lutheran Church the next month.

Participants and volunteers have appreciated the program.

“The amount of food per share, per distribution, far exceeds what one would expect for $20,” said Loughren. “There is always enough in my boxes and baskets to share the bounty with neighbors, friends and family.”

There’s also a Christmas-like element of surprise as every distribution offers a different mix of products.

“Most distributions have an item or two that I have not tried before, so it’s fun to check those out,” Loughren said. Volunteers look through the food before distributing it, sometimes going to the computer to find recipes for some of the items to pass on to participants.

“We’re like a big family,” said Zion site coordinator Katie Hoyt.

However, distribution numbers at the Superior sites have fallen. Last month, fewer shares were distributed at both sites combined than at that first distribution in 2012 — 212 shares at Zion Lutheran and less than 200 at Christ Lutheran. It’s a problem throughout the Ruby’s Pantry distribution area, according to Hoyt.

“Numbers are going down everywhere, even in Duluth,” she said.

In addition to stopping the Zion distribution, the date of the Christ Lutheran Church distributions will change next month. This month, it will take place on the third Thursday of the month as usual, Aug. 21. Starting in September, food distributions move to the fourth Thursday of the month, except in November and December. By altering that schedule, volunteers said, Ruby’s Pantry will distribute food in the Duluth/Superior area at least once a week. According to the Ruby’s Pantry website, there are monthly distributions in Hermantown, Duluth and Cloquet in addition to Superior.

For more information on distribution dates and times, visit www.rubyspantry.org/distribution/distschedule.htm.

The remaining Superior distribution dates for this year are Aug. 21, Sept. 25, Oct. 23, Nov. 20 and Dec. 18 at Christ Lutheran Church, 320 N. 28th St. E. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. with food distribution beginning at 5 p.m. Participants were encouraged Monday to attend the Christ Lutheran Church distributions.

In addition to Ruby’s Pantry, a Sharing One’s Surplus food distribution takes place the second Saturday of each month at Mission Covenant Church in Poplar. The doors open at 8 p.m. for registration and shares cost $25 each. Like Ruby’s, there are no income guidelines. Anyone can participate. With both programs, people receive a large quantity of food. Participants are asked to bring baskets, boxes and bags to carry the food.

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Maria Lockwood
(715) 395-5025
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