INDIANAPOLIS — It took Indiana University School of Medicine students just one week to collect nearly a quarter ton of canned goods to help feed the hungry this Thanksgiving season.
When the school’s Office of Medical Student Affairs put out the call for donations Nov. 11, students answered with a total of 450 pounds of food rolling into the office over the next seven days; 380 pounds alone came from the IU School of Medicine Class of 2018.
“The community here is so important to us, we jumped at the chance to give something back,” said Andrew Cutshall, a first-year medical student and president of the Class of 2018. “The importance of these food collection efforts can’t be overstated. They provide comfort and relief to struggling families and individuals in difficult situations. The holidays should be a time of celebration and thankfulness, and these food collection efforts are an awesome way to help spread those feelings.”
All food donated will go to support Paws Pantry, a student-run food pantry for students, staff and faculty at IUPUI. The pantry, which opened in September 2013, is located in the IUPUI Campus Center.
“IUPUI is not immune to Indianapolis’ hunger and food insecurity problems; in fact, to date over 300 individuals have utilized the pantry,” said Joe Spaulding, founding student co-director for Paws Pantry. “Almost 100 percent of our food comes from donations, so food drives like this are vital to our operation. We’re so thankful for all that the IU School of Medicine students have done for us.”
The School of Medicine Class of 2018 led the charge on the collection effort after Cutshall set up a PayPal account for cash donations, with nearly $200 pouring in from first-year medical students in just a few days. He and four fellow students — Freddy Damen, Hitesh Dube, Ronit Patnaik and Aubri Rush — then paid a visit to a local supermarket to stock up on canned fruits, vegetables and soups.
“It took five people to carry everything into to the Office of Medical Student Affairs,” said Jose Espada, director of student financial aid for the school, who had the idea to launch the drive. “Our students really are very altruistic. They’re not just academically accomplished; they’re well-rounded individuals with a real desire to give to the community. It’s just part of what makes them who they are.”
“We definitely want to turn this into an annual tradition,” he said. “We’re off to a great start, and I think next year we’re going to do even better, especially considering the enthusiasm we’re already seeing from the students. I’m confident it’s only going to grow.”