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Nov. 30, 2017 - USA Medical Student Addresses Food Insecurity with On-Campus Food Pantry

donor%20to%20diner.jpgSippy Sridhar, a second-year student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently started an on-campus food pantry available for USA students experiencing food insecurity.

According to Sridhar, Donor to Diner (D2D) is the first and only non-profit organization that solely devotes itself to combating collegiate hunger.

Sridhar started the organization at the University of Alabama at Birmingham while earning her undergraduate degree in 2013. She credits a conversation with one of her close friends for inspiring her to create a program that not only increases awareness about food insecurity among college students, but also provides resources to help those experiencing collegiate hunger during their time of need.

“One day, a friend discreetly asked me if I’d mind paying for her lunch with an extra meal from my meal plan,” Sridhar said. “Once we got our food and started talking, our conversation made me wonder if other students shared her same experiences.”

According to Sridhar, a survey conducted by USA’s Student Government Association in 2016 showed 57 percent of USA students have experienced food insecurity at some point during their college career. “Although this number is high, we are by no means an outlier and are still within the national range, which is shocking,” she said. “When I matriculated to the USA College of Medicine last year, I learned that there wasn’t an on-campus food pantry available to students. I connected with Dr. Michael Mitchell, vice president of student affairs and dean of students at USA, to establish additional resources.”

The new food pantry, located on USA’s main campus, is available to provide short-term relief for any USA student who does not have sufficient funds to purchase food or can only afford inexpensive but unhealthy meals. “We chose a location in the center of campus that is convenient but still private,” she said. “The food pantry currently accepts non-perishable food items donated from both individuals and organizations.”

Sridhar said Dr. Mitchell, who also serves as the faculty sponsor of USA’s D2D Chapter, has been instrumental in the development of the on-campus food pantry. In October, Sridhar and Dr. Mitchell attended the #RealCollege National Conference for Hunger in Philadelphia, where they spoke about collegiate hunger.

In addition, Sridhar said Dr. Susan LeDoux, associate dean for medical education at the USA College of Medicine, along with other College of Medicine administrators have also been very supportive of D2D.

"Altruism is one of those characteristics that we look for when we accept students into the USA College of Medicine, and Sippy Sridhar exemplifies this value in the passion and persistence that she has shown in getting the food pantry project started,” Dr. LeDoux said.

“Several medical students also serve as volunteers,” Sridhar said. “Patricia Connor and Jorden Smith, both second-year medical students, serve as officers for the USA Chapter of D2D.”

Sridhar said it is especially important for medical students to participate community service activities. “We should all do what we can to improve the lives of those around us,” she said. “Food insecurity impacts the health of patients and determines the feasibility of certain treatment options.

Understanding their circumstances now will help me to better serve patients with similar experiences in the future.”

Sridhar said although food insecurity can happen to anyone and is not something to be ashamed of, all correspondences to the pantry are confidential. “We like to maintain confidentiality to protect students’ privacy,” she said. “This sentiment is similar to how a patient’s privacy is protected in a clinical setting. Patients aren’t necessarily embarrassed of their diagnosis or illness and may freely share that information with others, but it is not the place of the medical provider to disseminate patient information.”

Click here for more information on D2D and here for the D2D Facebook page.

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