Welcome to Ruby's Pantry
At the grocery store, $20 may not buy a lot these days, but at Ruby's pantry, it will yield two baskets of food.
Ruby's Pantry is a rural food bank, which collects surplus foods from corporate organizations and distributes them to rural communities in the United States by pairing with local churches, food shelves and other civic organizations.
And now Ruby's pantry is coming to Detroit Lakes, through what seems to be an act of divine intervention.
"When I started here (at M State), one of the initiatives I was given was to remove barriers for students," said Kayla Simon, a college social worker. "A lot of times, finances are a barrier."
So Simon began researching ways to ease some of the financial burden on students.
The college did a survey and found that students were struggling with food costs, specifically, and that's when Simon found Ruby's Pantry. But she wasn't sure how (or if) the christian organization would be able to work with a secular school.
A few weeks later, the Dean of Students, Steve Erickson, told Simon to go ahead with the partnership, but Ruby's Pantry said a church needed to be partnered with them.
That's where True Life church came in.
At their new location on Highway 59, the True Life Church community (formerly Assembly of God) had been praying about what to do, where to focus their community action.
"He gave us the heart to focus on college students," said Pastor Trevor, a pastor with True Life church.
Not a lot of the church members are college-age, but they felt a pull towards that generation.
"We felt it's the forgotten generation."
Pastor Trevor walked into M State and sat down with Simon, asking her "How can we serve your students?" just a few days after she received the go-ahead for Ruby's Pantry from the Dean of Students.
And a partnership emerged.
Now, every second Monday of the month, starting Dec. 12 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (registration from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.), the M State cafeteria will fill up with surplus food and volunteers ready to help hand it all out.
"Anybody can come," Simon said, adding that financial status doesn't matter. "You just show up with a $20 donation and bring laundry baskets or totes."
And the volunteers will load your baskets up with what Simon estimates to be close to $150 to $250 worth of groceries that otherwise would be thrown away by corporations.
Simon participated in a Ruby's Pantry gathering in Perham, and she said she went home with two totes of food, including six bags of hash browns, three loaves of bread, almond milk, soda, nine frozen pizzas, a bag of chicken tenders, five bags of pasta, pudding, mustard, toilet paper, fruit snacks and chocolate milk, to name a few--and it was all name-brand.
The food items change every month, too.
"Every time you go, you'll get 18 to 20 different food items," Simon said.
The hope is to keep the organization going all year round and continue improving the service, eventually becoming web-based, so people can register online.
Both True Life church and M State feel the partnership will benefit the Detroit Lakes region in more ways than one, since $2 of every $20 donation also goes right back into the community.
"We felt it was a great partnership to work with," said Pastor Trevor.
"M State is really excited to be able to provide this service to the students and to the community," Erickson said.