The Food Pantry at St. Mark's is a joint ministry of many congregations which began a block or two down Mississippi Avenue, at First Christian Church. 20 years ago, First Christian and Faith Lutheran Churches came together to form the food pantry. As First Christian Church sold their property, St. Mark's Episcopal Church gladly welcomed this beloved ministry and created a new home for the food pantry so that they tradition of answering the call to feed the hungry on Mississippi Avenue could continue.
Arkansas ranks the 2nd worse state in the nation for food insecurity. 18.4% of Arkansans are food insecure. Historically Arkansas has led the nation in seniors who face the threat of hunger. Because of the Arkansas Food Bank and food pantries such as ours we are no longer 1st but fifth in the nation. A lot of our clients are grandparents who are taking care of their children’s children because their parents are absent. Some clients have two working family members and still can’t make ends meet.
Food insecurity is the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.
In other words. Food Insecurity is when you do not know where you next meal is coming from unless you steal it.
Since the move to St. Marks, the food pantry has been able to expand from serving a client once every 3 months to once a month. In 2017, the food pantry provided food for 11,000 people, or 2,633 families. This ministry's volunteers and supporting churches has expanded too, to now include St. Mark’s, First Christian, Pulaski Heights Baptist, Trinity Methodist and Faith Lutheran. Each Thursday morning from 9:00-11:00 am, 25 volunteers come together to serve at the food pantry.
The food pantry also goes beyond meeting food needs, but also has retired doctors that offer blood pressure checks, deacons that pray with clients and provide space to share, volunteers to help further food assistance by helping people who are not already on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) sign up, flu shots and more. They also have volunteers who are fluent in Spanish and American Sign Language.
We believe that God is guiding and blessing all that we do. We believe that every man, woman and child should have access to food-today tomorrow and a decade from now, and every day we are pushing to make that mission a reality. We believe reaching food insecure residents of the Little Rock Metro Area with nutritious food will help stabilize lives and position our community for a better future. Our partnerships with other local churches, markets and restaurants is a partnership deeply rooted in our faith. Mostly and much more importantly we continue to serve and feed our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, all of God’s children.
As we gathered in the Sanctuary to begin worship, things were a little different than normal Sunday morning. Not just because it was a Servanthood Sunday, but also because the night before there was a thunderstorm and the church lost power! So we gathered in the dark and worshiped the Light of the World.
John Knuteson, Faith Lutheran member and a lead volunteer at the food pantry, gave a homily to share about the blessing of ministry that happens at the Food Pantry at St. Mark's. After hearing of John's passion for this shared ministry and the deep need for food assistance in Little Rock, we were commissioned for service. Along with the food needs of the clients of the food pantry, many are also in need of personal care items, and there is no assistance program to acquire such needed daily items. After weeks of collecting these new donated items from members of Faith Lutheran we were ready! Our mission was to go fill 300 bags with toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, mouthwash, deodorant and soap for distribution at the food pantry.
As we reentered the Sanctuary following the service project portion of the service, the lights came back on! John remarked that he began his homily with one of his favorite Bible verses that relates to hunger, Isaiah 58:10-12.
Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.
Indeed the light did shine out from the darkness!
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A worship & service experience all in one! Each Servanthood Sunday, a local ministry or non-profit will share their mission and we will join together in a service project for that mission - all in the middle of Sunday morning worship!