Fourth-year School of Pharmacy student Kayla Creel is acutely aware that many Mississippians don’t have enough to eat.
Almost one in four – that’s 690,000 people, according to the Mississippi Food Network – has a growling stomach. That includes 28.7 percent of the state’s children who go to bed hungry, MFN says.
Creel is an organizer of the School of Pharmacy’s annual Hungry Games, which helps the MFN meet those food needs. The Hungry Games are just one of the service-related projects Medical Center students take on that spread Christmas cheer to local residents.
“The Mississippi Food Network provides food and meals to every county in Mississippi and is the sole agency distributing food across most of the state,” said Creel, a Byram resident. “The Hungry Games provides a great opportunity to support such a great organization, especially around Thanksgiving.”
The Schools of Pharmacy, Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Graduate Studies and Health Related Professions recently took part in three charitable projects that are part of the School Cup, a campus-wide competition. Schools receive points for winning or taking part in sports or service project competitions, and the school with the most points at the end of the academic year wins the coveted Cup.
"A primary goal of the ASB is to improve community among students in our six UMMC schools by planning and implementing social, athletic, philanthropic and academic activities,” said Peter Mittwede, a Class of 2016 Ph.D./M.D. candidate who grew up in Ankara, Turkey.
“UMMC has many generous and altruistic students, and we strive to provide opportunities for them to serve and give to those in need,” Mittwede said. “The School Cup is a friendly competition between schools that encourages students to take part in community service and campus activities."
The ASB co-hosted the Hungry Games with Pharmacy, and students collected more than 800 pounds of food, Creel said.
Other School Cup holiday projects included a toy drive for Batson Children’s Hospital sponsored by the ASB and the Pediatric Interest Group. Each school collected toys to be presented to patients at Batson during the Christmas season.
Also, the ASB and the Global Health Interest Group co-sponsored a global health garage sale, collecting money donations and holding a garage sale in the student union. Proceeds benefit student global health initiatives.
The Global Health Interest Group, created by the ASB, opened the door for students from different schools to combine on a worthy project, said Erin Peeden, a third-year School of Medicine student from Natchez and the global health chair. Those taking part in the garage sale enjoyed pizza together and teamed to “sort endless piles of clothes,” she said.
The group strives “to find global health opportunities for students, to raise funds for the trips, and to unite students from different schools,” Peeden said. “We raised around $1,000. However, by including students from all schools to help with the donations and with the setup, we were able to meet and connect with students we may not have had the chance to interact with.”
Said Bill Gilbert, a third-year School of Medicine student from Gulfport and president of the group: “When we started the Global Health Interest Group last year, one of our goals was to be able to assist students financially, and we are really excited to begin that process with this fundraiser.”
Students also are taking part in a number of service-related December and January projects that are not a part of the School Cup, Mittwede said. They include an ASB-sponsored welcome and appreciation dinner for campus police held Dec. 19 and a volunteer team to staff a water station at the Jan. 10 Mississippi Blues Marathon off downtown Jackson.