IU School of Medicine students donate 450 pounds of canned food just in time for Thanksgiving

November 20, 2014

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.

Freddy Damen, Andrew Cutshall, Aubri Rush, Ronit Patnaik and Hitesh Dube, all first-year medical students, purchased 380 pounds of food for donation on behalf of the Class of 2018.

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 on the second floor of the IUPUI Campus Center, Room 220. The only requirement to use the pantry is a valid JagTag or IU School of Medicine ID.

"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.

A cart of canned fruits, vegetables and soups. All donations from the food drive till go to IUPUI's Paws Pantry. | Photo By Office of Medical Student Affairs

"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."

Other class years also shouldered their part, with second-, third- and fourth-year students dropping off a total of 70 pounds of cans for donation.

"I had more people than I can count asking me how they could help; everyone jumped behind this food drive with enthusiasm and without hesitation," Cutshall said. "I think for many students the desire to be a physician and our desire to support charitable causes are linked.

"Personally, I'm going into medicine specifically because I want to give back to my community," he added.

Although this year's goal was 1,000 pounds, Espada said nearing 50 percent of the goal in the first year alone surpassed expectations. He's already looking to the future.

"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."