Annual Child Health Food Drive Raises More Than $110,000

food bank thank you sign

MU Health Care’s eighth-annual child health food drive raised more than $110,000 this year, a new record for donations. The food drive was open from Dec. 1-17 and is organized by Child Health LEAD (leadership, education and advocacy development) track residents. This year, monetary donations were matched by the family of Dr. Gerald and Mrs. Frances Hoxworth up to $25,000.

“I honestly wasn’t sure we were going to host the drive this time, because we’re all exhausted after this year,” said Kristin Sohl, MD, who helped the original group of child health residents start the food drive eight years ago and continues to mentor this project and other Child Health resident advocacy projects each year. “It was really Dr. Gupta who brought this drive together. It was a very pleasant surprise, and I’m so proud of our residents.”

Venkata Gupta, MD, is a part of the Leadership, Education and Advocacy Development Track within the Department of Child Health and serves as a chief resident for the department.  He led this year’s Food Drive initiative.

“We didn’t have much growing up, but we always felt the need to support our community, so this is very near and dear to my heart,” Gupta said.

Millions of Americans are experiencing food insecurity for the first time in 2020. About one out of three children in Boone Country are projected to experience food insecurity for the first time this year.

“Food insecurity has a long-lasting impact on kids’ health and quality of life even after they grow up,” Gupta said. “We want to be there for our patients, so we keep buddy packs at our South Providence clinic ready to go so they can take food home when coming in for an appointment.”

All funds raised go to The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, the organization responsible for the buddy packs program. The buddy packs were originally intended to feed children the meals they were not receiving outside of school but now can be given through the clinic as well.

A hallmark of the drive is a friendly competition between the different departments within the hospital. The Department of Child Health was joined this year by the Department of Family and Community Medicine, the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Division of General Internal Medicine. The winning department is awarded bragging rights and possession of a food drive trophy for the entire year.

For residents, the drive also carries on a tradition of mentorship. The food drive chair is led by a senior child health resident who works with newer residents so they will be prepared to take on the baton in the future.

Aaron Spencer Lambdin, MD, is a second-year resident volunteer who will likely take on Gupta’s role in the future.

“We’ve really outdone our own expectations so far. At the first planning meeting we joked about reaching $100,000. We never thought we’d get there,” Lambdin said.

The drive organizers are excited for this year’s success and hope to continue their tradition of breaking their donation record again in 2021.