‘We all have to help’: A Ridgefield sixth-grader creates a food pantry to meet a growing need

RIDGEFIELD — Ruby Weiner has regularly contributed to Ridgefield's Little Pantry since she was 5, but now, six years later, she’s decided to help out even more.

Weiner, 11, and a sixth-grader at Scotts Ridge Middle School, was dropping off canned goods when she learned Little Pantry was seeing three times the activity during the pandemic.

She reached out to Linda Hutchings, who oversees it and is Community Food Rescue’s food sourcing manager, and decided there was a need for a second Little Pantry.

“Opening it now will help so many,” said Weiner’s mother Patty Labozzo. “That’s all Ruby wants to do: help our Ridgefield community by offering a much-needed way to give and to take, when you have or have not. It’s so simple, anyone can help.”

Helping is in Weiner’s nature. She’s a Cadette Girl Scout and volunteers with Dorothy Day Hospitality House and Family and Children’s Aid.

Through her frequent donation to the Little Pantry, she and Labozzo got to know Hutchings, who helped Weiner learn about the need for donating accessible food, toiletries and household products in and around her town.

“Helping others is dear to Ruby’s heart,” Labozzo said. “It’s who she is. Ruby will always help people, as well as help people realize they can make a huge difference in someone’s life by giving, even just a little.”

Weiner researched grants and received the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation Youth Grant to help open the second Little Pantry. She is one of 106 young leaders across the country to receive this grant to help end childhood hunger.

Weiner’s new pantry will be child focused with shelves designed to accommodate baby food jars, sealed diapers and wipes, baby toiletries, fragrance-free detergents and more. There will also be a special area for children birthday boxes, with cake mixes and canned frosting.

Children facing hunger may struggle in school, experience developmental impairments in areas like language motor skills and have more social and behavioral problems. Labozzo said.

“This is unacceptable to Ruby and she feels she, we all have to help,” Labozzo said. “Ruby’s goal has always been to stop, prevent and end childhood hunger.”

Labozzo says when out shopping, if people are able to purchase one extra can of food, it could be a meal for someone. And because the Little Pantry is a free-standing pantry, social distancing can be practiced, it’s open 24 hours, seven days a week in St. Stephen’s parking lot and is discreet and private so no one ever feels embarrassed.

Weiner plans to gift the second Little Pantry to the community on Global Youth Service Day late next month, though the location is still being worked out.

The grant doesn’t cover the cost of food but encourages community support, so Weiner made a sign-up list for donations and food drives.

The community is already rallying around the pantry.

Labozzo said Clark Construction and Daniel Kydes, are assisting and an anonymous donor has reached out to Ridgefield Supply Company, offering to cover Weiner’s wish list for supplies. Scott Ridge Middle School’s Changemakers Student Council, which Weiner is a member of, will soon be holding a food drive in support.

“Mary Evans and Roey Williams of Scotts Ridge Middle School’s cafeteria, have made a generous donation which will help stock the pantry when it’s completed,” Labozzo said. “Many local residents, Girl Scouts, friends and family have offered to help and support the creation of the second Little Pantry.”

Weiner has told her mom that it’s easy to give and is in talks with Ridgefield resident, Galit Ben-Joseph, on perhaps building more Little Pantries and Blessing Boxes in Connecticut and New York, to occupy space and spread awareness at both churches and synagogues.

“It’s so simple,” Labozzo said. “Collaboration, communion, community. Get together, figure out a way to help others, then make it happen.”