Early Monday morning, May 14, a semi truck full of groceries pulled up to the Lions Community Center in Onamia ready to unload its cargo. Volunteers helped unload nearly 21,000 pounds of food, displaying the goods on tables set throughout the center’s gymnasium area.
By 10 a.m., people from the Mille Lacs area were arriving to take part in the first of what is hoped to be a monthly distribution of food courtesy of a program called Ruby’s Pantry.
The Ruby Pantry’s concept is to offer, once per month, a variety of food for a discounted price in hopes of helping area residents save a bit on their monthly grocery bills.
The program, which currently serves over 30 distribution sites in the region, has been over two years in the making according to project co-ordinator John Varner, superintendent of Onamia School District 480. “We are very pleased with our first distribution,” Varner said. “It went incredibly well and we hope to see twice as many people take part next month.”
In all, over 200 people each received 50 pounds of food. “We had planned for serving over 400, so we had to return some food this time, but we hope when people get used to this program, we will meet our goal of at least 400,” said volunteer co-ordinator Stephanie Oyler.
Oyler said she had almost 40 volunteers help with the initial project and she is always looking for more to help.
The Pantry will return to the Onamia Lions Community Center on the second Monday of each month, and begin serving from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.