This month I finally had the opportunity to visit Ruby’s Pantry. Ruby’s Pantry is a community outreach program based in Minnesota, where basically you pick up food shares for a $20 donation. There are no income or residency requirements. There are many locations here in Minnesota and Wisconsin, though there are currently only a couple in the metro area, including Bloomington, which is where I went to today.
The food is a variety of fresh, nonperishable and frozen food. Some is past expiration, some is not, but it should all be perfectly fine to consume.
Normally you bring a couple of boxes to fill with food, but now because of COVID-19, you don’t bring your own boxes or bags. And you don’t leave your car. Instead, you drive up and your food is loaded into your car for you by volunteers who wear gloves and masks for safety.
For Ruby’s Pantry in Bloomington, food distribution takes place the first Tuesday of the month at Bloomington Lutheran Church. Today the food distribution was supposed to start at 5:00pm, with 4:30pm as the check-in time. I arrived at 4:20pm, and was directed forward into a line going into the church parking lot, where many other cars were already ahead of me. It seemed that the food distribution had already started. I was asked by the volunteer at the driveway entrance how many shares I wanted – I didn’t know I could get more than one, so I said one. I then gave my $20 donation to the volunteer, and was directed by many other volunteers in Ruby’s Pantry t-shirts.
It took about 30 minutes from start to finish. It was about 4:50pm when I got to the other side of the church where food was being loaded into cars. It was very organized and everything kept moving forward steadily. There was a big Walmart truck with many volunteers unloading food and organizing it onto tables outside.
I was asked to open my trunk from inside and I did as volunteers loaded it up. They even put a box in the back seat.
There were many boxes of food! Here is what was in the trunk.
And the back seat!
I put it all on the table at home.
Here’s what we got:
- A box of frozen omelets with cheese
- A box of green onions (3 bags)
- 6 half gallons of organic chocolate milk
- A case of 9 drinkable yogurts
- A package of 8 Halo Top oatmeal cookie ice creams
- 2 loaves of Sara Lee butter bread
- 2 big bags of Sara Lee white hamburger buns
- A big package of frozen french fries
- A big package of bow tie pasta
- 6 Oatmeal cups
- 4 individual beverages – 2 Bolt24 sports drinks (like Gatorade), a can of Pepsi, a can of Buble water
- 1 box of Captain Crunch cotton candy cereal
- 2 boxes of Enjoy Life soft baked cookies – apple cider donut and peppermint bark
- Aunt Jemima Belgian Waffle mix
- Quaker Chewy Dipps Peanut Butter granola bars
- 1 bag of sunflower seeds
- 3 packages of frozen Johnsonville sausage links
- 1 bag of Lentil chips – thai chili lime flavor (they were a bit spicy)
Here are some questions and answers about our food.
Was the food fresh or expired?
Some of it was expired. The ice cream was expired in October 2019, and the chocolate milk was expired on March 30th. But some items were not yet expired, like the cereal, which expires in July. I tried some of the food, including an omelet, and it was good!
For information about food expiration and safety, here’s a helpful link.
What did I think?
I thought it was a lot of food for $20. Clearly, it was food that was needing to be distributed while it was still good. It’s a good value. But I don’t know that we’ll use it all (we’ll probably share some of it with others). Normally you can choose the food you get, but right now during COVID-19 you can’t for safety reasons, which meant the food was similar for everyone. And I wasn’t prepared for all the items that would need to be refrigerated and frozen. I should have checked on this sooner, so I need to be creative to fit it all, or I will give it away.
Is Ruby’s Pantry worth it?
I think Ruby’s Pantry is very well-organized and you can’t beat the price. I think it’s worth trying out if you can, and if you don’t mind eating some food past expiration.
Great job, Ruby’s Pantry!
Visit their website for locations and more information!
And for more information on this locaion, follow Ruby’s Pantry – Bloomington on Facebook.