The pandemic has been especially challenging for patients of Mercy and Truth Medical Missions, a safety net clinic with two locations; one in Kansas City, Kansas and one in Shawnee Kansas. During a staff devotion time, an idea popped into my head about truly embracing the concept of “loving your neighbor”.
In February 2022, that concept became reality as Mercy and Truth deemed Feb. 1–15 “Love Your Neighbor Month”. Each day, we gave out a small and practical gift to patients. Items ranged from a free tube of toothpaste to a pair of gloves or a hat, to a pocket-sized hand sanitizer.
Valentine’s Day 2022’s giveaway was a box of chocolates donated by Russell Stover’s Chocolates. The Love Your Neighbor celebration culminated Feb. 15 with visits from Mercy and Truth partner Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Noah Gray and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly. Throughout the celebration, the Church of the Resurrection (COR) hosted their monthly mobile food pantry. While families waited in line to select their food, Noah Gray greeted people and handed out signed stress footballs.
This mobile food pantry started in September 2021 and after only seven visits, nearly 10,500 pounds of food has been given way. More than 260 families have come to the Mercy and Truth parking lot and selected food that has fed a total of 1,249 individuals. While they wait patiently in line, our staff visits with each person, asking if they’d like their blood pressure checked or if they have any health questions.
I can remember going to my first training session that Church of the Resurrection hosted. Their process of allowing clients to shop for their own food was fabulous, but I had one concern: many of our patients, especially our refugee patients, can’t read or write English. I asked the volunteers if they would be willing to put pictures on the shopping cards, which they agreed to do.
We have many patients that are new to America and don’t have a great command of the English language. They don’t understand many of our health care or political systems here, so when I can, I want to make sure that we are advocating for our patients who may not be able to articulate their needs.
Our partnership has been a happy one and one that is so beneficial to our patients. We know that medical care is only part of taking care of our patients. When people can access healthy food, they improve their overall health and begin to create healthier habits.
Gov. Kelly helped bag and distribute food before offering remarks about key issues that the Kansas Legislature is grappling to understand, especially her effort to Axe the Food Tax — a key bill that would remove the sales tax from food purchases.
Kansas currently has the second highest food tax in the nation. The Axe the Food Tax bill would cut the state sales tax on food purchased at Kansas grocery stores and farmers markets from the current 6.5 percent to 0 percent, saving the average Kansas family $500 per year.
An extra $500 a year for our patients could be used to defray a myriad of costs — like childcare, prescription medication, utilities, or rent — pay down debt, or even set aside for emergencies.
We thank Gov. Kelly for her visit. It is so important that our elected officials see our patients, hear their struggles, and ask them about their situation, so we can all work together for solutions that can truly make a difference. Because that is what “loving your neighbor” is truly about.