Hundreds seeking food flock to church parking lot in south Fargo

Vehicles line up on Tuesday, May 26, for the Ruby's Pantry food distribution event at Bethel Evangelical Free Church in south Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — A long line of cars twisted across Bethel Church’s parking lot Tuesday afternoon, May 26, as Ruby’s Pantry distributed food in the area for the second time during the pandemic.

Usually, pastor Michelle Webber plans for 300 shares, or bundles, but this time, she prepared for more.

“They sent us 400 today,” said Webber, the pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Moorhead. “They’ve been maxing out all across the state.”

With half the volunteers that Webber usually has, and 30% more people needing supplies, social distancing was difficult, she said. Volunteers wore masks while they filled boxes with onions and cheeses under a hot sun. Webber wore a homemade clerical mask.


Garret and Tesia Miller from West Fargo load cars on Tuesday, May 26, during the Ruby's Pantry food distribution event at Bethel Evangelical Free Church in south Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

“It’s food that wouldn’t otherwise be in our community,” Webber said. “This truly is an increase in food to the people.”

The pop-up food pantry — not unlike a Great Depression-era bread line except that people lined up and stayed in their cars — was organized by the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Moorhead, and was held at Fargo's Bethel Evangelical Church. The donations came from Ruby’s Pantry, an organization that gathers surplus foods, bumper crops and donations to help feed those in need of food.

“They don’t solicit donations from businesses that would otherwise be given to the Great Plains Food Bank,” Bethel Evangelical Church pastor Jonas Bundy said. “That’s why I wanted to partner with them, because it doesn’t take away. This just made a lot of sense to me. For $20, they’re likely going to get several hundred dollars worth of food.”

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Volunteer for Ruby's Pantry food distribution, Robin Slavic, directs traffic at host site Bethel Evangelical Church Tuesday, May 26. C.S. Hagen / The Forum

Susan Opp dug through her newly-acquired box of groceries. French fries. Ice Cream. Onions. Blocks of cheese. Captain Crunch cereal. Bread, from Sara Lee.

“And hard-boiled eggs,” said John Zajac, who accompanied her from Breckenridge, Minn.


“This helps a lot. A lot of love. A lot of thank yous,” Opp said.

For her $20 donation, she and about 400 others, received much-needed groceries, including paper towels, a commodity that is sometimes difficult to find in area grocery and big box stores since the coronavirus pandemic began.

All donations go toward operational and transportation costs and warehousing staff, and the food is distributed from Minnesota to Wisconsin, according to the Ruby’s Pantry website.

Steve Borgen drove with his family from Grand Forks to purchase his share of groceries. He’s been coming to similar events for years, he said.

“We were doing this before the pandemic,” Borgen said. “It’s nice to use some things that might be wasted otherwise. And it was zoom, zoom, zoom, much faster than I thought it would have been.”

Some of the usual volunteers could not help with food distribution because they have preexisting conditions, Webber said. The volunteers that helped did so because they wanted to give back to the community.

“People need food that they can afford,” volunteer Alicia Artley said.

“I just think it’s wonderful that we’re doing good and helping people out. It makes me feel better,” said another volunteer, Jo Lenertz. “Plus, it feels good to be out.”


“Our church felt it was important to be in a community effort to help with food,” said volunteer Brad Swenson, who is older and struggles with asthma but still wanted to help.

“It’s important to be involved,” he said.

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