AUSTIN, Minn. - Ruby's Pantry is a non-profit that provides pop-up pantries in 80 different locations across Minnesota and Wisconsin, with one being in Albert Lea and Austin. Volunteers with the one in Austin just completed their first year and have officially kicked off their second one.
The food share service is offered the third Thursday of every month. Like many other things, the coronavirus pandemic caused volunteers to switch gears a little bit and offer a drive-thru pick up option at the Mower County Fairgrounds. All the food that's distributed out to the community is donated from different corporations.
At the beginning of the pandemic, volunteers noticed how great of a need there was for groceries so they knew they would have to keep the pantry running. The idea was started through Grace Lutheran Church. "Of course, churches and other service organizations realized the need that exists for all sorts of services in any community," explained the media coordinator of Ruby's Pantry, Bob Rosel. "This just seemed like a good way for our church and for the community to get involved. To pitch in a help where we could and it wasn't so much of a commitment that we had to do something every day, but we can certainly gather together with volunteers and some local businesses and provide a service once a month."
Anyone who needs food can bring exactly $20 cash and receive two baskets full of items. "We will load it into your car. All you have to do is drive up to the Mower County Fairgrounds, follow the instructions," explained Rosel. "We'll have some Mower County Emergency Management people to help direct traffic. You stay in your car, we load up the boxes, we put them in your vehicle and you drive away. It's really that simple."
Ruby's Pantry will be back at the fairgrounds again in October.