Ridgefield sixth-grader uses grant to open food pantries

RIDGEFIELD — After receiving a Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation Youth Grant, Scotts Ridge Middle School sixth grader Ruby Weiner has decided to make a difference in Fairfield County. The grant will support Weiner in leading a communitywide service project to address childhood hunger, according to a release.

Weiner intends to use the grant to establish more Little Pantry boxes in Ridgefield and surrounding towns. The free-standing cupboards are stocked with sealed, canned and packaged food items to help feed families in need 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The initiative is based on a “take-what-you-need, bring-what-you-can” system.

The Weiner family partnered with Clark Construction of Ridgefield to look at the number of people experiencing food insecurity locally and realized there’s a need for several little pantries. With the help of anonymous donors and community members, Weiner and Clark will commission another three to five pantries in Ridgefield, Redding, Wilton, Danbury and Norwalk.

“She wants to be an architect when she grows up so she has a real vision of what these pantries will look like,” said Ross Clark, of Clark Construction. “We're working with her on designs that fit her vision, using her sketches as guidance and having her review the final plans.”

The construction group developed specific design elements necessary for the pantries. Shelves have to vary in height, including more narrow spaces for baby food jars and taller slots for detergents, paper towels and kids’ birthday boxes, which include a baking tin filled with boxed cake mix, frosting, napkins, bows and candles. The pantries must also be waterproof and include a latch closure and glass window on the door so people can peer inside.

“I hope to have a special area only for children’s (items) and baby food and another area just for feminine products,” Weiner said.

Clark Construction will begin building the pantries on April 7, and Ridgefield Glass has partnered to provide the glass for the front doors. An anonymous donor has paid for all the materials to erect Weiner’s first pantry through Ridgefield Supply Company and Ring’s End, two businesses that have also committed to donate materials to the cause. Signage and plaques for the pantries will be donated by Signarama.

Two pantries have already been confirmed for installation at Wooster Hollow Cafe and Nature’s Temptation in Ridgefield, with other locations to be announced. Cafe owner Rob Herman has committed to keep the pantry stocked, Clark said, adding that his nonprofit, Sunrise Meals, helped feed countless people during the pandemic.

The week of April 12, Weiner’s peers will help her paint and stain the finished pantries so they are ready for installation by April 21. And on April 25, at 1 p.m., First Selectman Rudy Marconi will join the Weiner family at a ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorating Ruby’s achievements. Location to be announced.