ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Dr. Janelle Potts, a primary care physician with Mercy Clinic Family Medicine, Downtown Rogers, and other co-workers established the first Little Free Pantry at the Rogers clinic five years ago.
According to a press release from Mercy, The Little Free Pantry has been so beneficial and successful that additional pantries have popped up at many other Mercy NWA locations. The current locations are:
- Mercy Highway 102, Bentonville
- Mercy Clinic I Street, Bentonville
- Mercy Clinic Centerton
- Mercy Clinic Pea Ridge
- Mercy Clinic Bella Vista
- Mercy Clinic Primary Care J Street, Bentonville
- Mercy Physicians Plaza, Rogers
- Mercy Clinic Primary Care, Springdale
Another location is in the works at Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in Rogers, according to Mercy.
The mini pantry movement is a grassroots, crowdsourced solution to an immediate, local need, according to littlefreepantry.org. Cinthia Vlaovich, executive director of operations, Mercy Clinic Northwest Arkansas, said the pantries were established in response to a growing population of people suffering from food insecurity.
“When those people become our patients, it is very hard to help them with their health when they are hungry or don’t have access to healthy food options,” Vlaovich said. “Patients utilize them every single day, and we have had a lot of positive feedback and thankfulness for the food.”
Dr. Lisa Low, Mercy NWA’s community health medical director, added that the pantries were created “because of the passion and heart of our co-workers for helping those in need.”
During Mercy Kindness Week in November, which coincides with World Kindness Day on Nov. 13, co-workers will take part in a food drive to help stock the pantries. While community groups also contribute, and Mercy encourages utilization and donation through social media networks, Mercy co-workers donate the majority of the food, according to the press release.
Many patients bring in food to put in the pantry when they come to their visits. On the other hand, there are patients who struggle with food insecurity and have needed food from the pantry. It has been nice to be able to send some of my elderly patients who are on a fixed income home with a bag of nourishing food. There is so much food insecurity in Northwest Arkansas, and much of it is hidden. It is easy to forget there are those who are struggling to put food on the table – if they have a table at all.Dr. Janelle Potts, primary care physician, Mercy Clinic Family Medicine, Downtown Rogers
Dr. Potts said she would love to see Little Free Pantries at every Mercy location.
“Mercy has a mission to care for those in need, whether it is the sick or the hungry, and this is a perfect way to expand our mission,” she said.