Arkansas ranks 2nd in the nation for food insecurity, but the 100% volunteer-run Food Pantry at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is helping to make sure needy families in Little Rock are fed. The Food Pantry opened in May, 2016, with St. Mark’s taking over after First Christian Church moved locations. Housed at St. Mark’s, the Food Pantry is supported by five additional partner churches: Trinity United Methodist Church, the First Christian Church, Faith Lutheran Church, First Church of the Nazarene, and Pulaski Heights Baptist Church. In 2017, St. Mark’s Food Pantry served 10,699 people in 2,633 families.
People seeking help at the St. Mark’s Food Pantry will find a welcoming and loving environment. Patricia Peacock, Chair of the Food Pantry Board, says “We think of the people who come to see us as patrons. We serve them on a tray, we have coffee and something sweet for them when they get there in case they have to wait for an interview. It is important to us that we show them dignity.” One anonymous patron of the Food Pantry remarked, “It’s hard, when you find yourself in a situation where you need help from other people. I hate the situation that my husband and I are in right now, but thank God there are good Christian people like you that help people when they’re down on their luck and you do it in a way that the person is able to keep their dignity.”
The Food Pantry is open on Thursday mornings from 9:15-10:45, during which time volunteers complete intake forms, distribute food, and even carry food out to patron’s cars. St. Mark’s is the only Food Pantry in Little Rock that customizes food distribution—making sure families with children get more milk, juice, and, of course, peanut butter. The Food Pantry also works with partner organizations in the community, including Starbucks, Outback Steakhouse, and Whole Foods. Henry Schein Dental is providing 300 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste for Easter.
Rev. Joanna Seibert, a Deacon at St. Mark’s, emphasizes that the Food Pantry is about more than just food: “The food pantry gives people at St. Mark’s the opportunity to do hands-on ministry. I go because that is where I meet God. I meet God at the Food Pantry. The patrons who come there are amazing. They know more about God than I do. We get a lot more out of it than we give.”
St. Mark’s Food Pantry welcomes volunteers to help with food collection, organization, and distribution. They are also seeking partner organizations in the community who may be willing to donate food. With such a large need in Little Rock, St. Mark’s Food Pantry is hoping to expand to Saturday food distribution and possibly even offer cooking classes. Interested volunteers should contact Patricia Peacock at FoodPantryStMarksLR@gmail.com.