Lindsey Caraway and the rest of her family enjoyed Caesar salads on a recent evening.

The meal came courtesy of the program known as Ruby’s Pantry, which has been distributing shares of food in the Redwood area since 2014.

In that time, the popularity of the local distribution event has grown, so not hosting it on its scheduled March date had an impact on its patrons.

According to Caraway, the March distribution was supposed to be held March 17, but the realities of COVID-19 meant that the event held at the National Guard Armory in Redwood Falls had to be postponed.

Then Caraway also found out that the armory was going to be closed for all public events through May. So, Caraway started looking for another potential option.

Ultimately, Caraway contacted Markeela Toreen, the head of marketing at Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel, to find out if it would be possible to host a distribution in the parking lot of the local casino. Toreen contacted Brian Pendleton, Jackpot Junction general manager, as well as the tribal council. 

According to Caraway, the casino just had to lay off more than 600 people and with other layoffs in the area the thought was that those coordinating the distribution would need more than average. Typically, 240-270 shares are distributed during a Ruby’s Pantry event.

Caraway said organizers talked to others conducting Ruby's Pantry distributions, and they have been sending 400 shares to each site and selling out.

“We asked for 600 which meant they had to send two semis,” added Caraway.

All of it was distributed.

Caraway explained the food is corporate excess donated from many different places all over Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“This month we had some amazing produce,” said Caraway. “I know Ruby’s picked up a bunch food from large event centers, restaurants and places that were planning on having large events, sporting events, weddings, conferences, that all needed to be cancelled, but they had the food.”

So Ruby’s was able to benefit.

Caraway said she started working about 10:30 a.m. that day, adding she had to pick up wagons to use and then tape up boxes donated by Altimate Medical. Loads of boxes were also donated by Walmart.

Caraway said there was an awesome group of volunteers who served, adding Jackpot sent volunteers, Bayer sent volunteers, Altimate Medical and Southwest Health and Human Services for sure all had volunteers come.

Fellow coordinator Sue Osborne was also able to leave work early to come help.

“We did our best to abide by social distancing and had a very limited number of volunteers,” added Caraway.

Loading ended about 7 p.m., and then there was clean-up to do.

Caraway said the hope is to do something similar in April again at Jackpot Junction. Local organizers aren’t 100 percent on the date yet, but they are hoping the typical Tuesday date will work.

“We are playing it week by week to see what the need is,” explained Caraway, adding the volunteers did a lot of manual labor this time and she doesn’t want to wear them out.

The Lower Sioux community contacted Caraway and asked if they could deliver shares to elders who they deliver daily meals to. That ended up being 47 shares and they had a crew of six or seven people delivering those shares all over the area.

While it was a lot of work, Caraway said the event turned out great.