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‘Everyone who eats qualifies’

People will line up early in the morning in the freezing cold if it means they might get a good deal and that’s what the frequenters of the monthly Ruby’s Pantry food distribution have been doing since the program began last June.

For $15, participants receive $150 worth of groceries. The best part is “everyone who eats qualifies,” said coordinator Barb Lammo.

Lammo said the program started last June after she visited another Ruby’s Pantry location in the Elk River. “I just thought it was the greatest thing,” she said. “Why don’t we have this in Brainerd?”

Lammo took matters into her own hands and contacted Ruby’s Pantry, an organization based in Pine City with 30 distribution centers throughout Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“I’ve never done anything like this in my life,” Lammo said. “I said, ‘Just tell me what to do.’”

Lammo took the helm for the distribution and secured the Brainerd Armory in south Brainerd.

“We’re so grateful to the armory,” said Lammo.

This allows Ruby’s Pantry to operate in its building at no cost. Super One donates the use of its shopping carts and Heartland Tire Services’ Commercial store allows the use its fork-lift to help move food pallets.

The operation is a 100 percent volunteer effort.

“It’s dangerous for anyone to get to close to me,” laughed Lammo, about the friends and family members she recruited to volunteer.

“Other people have tried to do it on their own,” she said. “But it really is the Lord.”

Since opening it’s doors last June, Ruby’s Pantry in Brainerd has grown to one of the largest Ruby’s Pantry locations.

Lammo said October’s distribution date ended with 568 shares of food given out.

“It was phenomenal,” Lammo said. “We stretched it and we still had food left over. ... The Lord just kept dividing the loaves.”

Food shares vary in content each month. Lammo said the shares typically include staple items like meat, rice, potatoes, eggs, dairy products and beverages. Patrons are asked to bring their own boxes to take food home.

The food for Ruby’s Pantry is trucked in monthly and Lammo said the majority of the $15 — $12 worth — covers the cost of distribution. The remainder is given to organizations within the community. Brainerd’s Ruby’s Pantry made donations to Teen Challenge, Timber Bay, Salvation Army, Bridges of Hope and the Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen.

Ruby’s Pantry is typically open the first Tuesday of every month and starts serving patrons at 11 a.m. People are asked to show up early and pre-register to hold their place in line. Lammo said they have had lines form as early at 7:30 a.m. Pre-registration starts at 9 a.m. and Ruby’s pantry distributes until 12:30 p.m.

Anna Lammo, a volunteer with Ruby’s Pantry, and Barb’s daughter-in-law, said the most common misconception about Ruby’s Pantry is that there is an income requirement in order to participate.

“Most things in this area are (income based),” she said. “This is just to help. It’s for people who just want a break.”

Lammo said the response has been “absolutely wonderful.”

“Everyone is so grateful and so thankful,” she said. “It’s just been a blessing.”

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.