Maanya Pandey: Making a difference in the community

Published on March 5, 2024

Maanya Pandey is a public health undergraduate student with an eye toward medical school. She’s also heavily engaged in the community and founded her own non-profit organization while still a high school student. Maanya recently answered a few questions about her path to public health and her involvement with Love For Red and other groups, both on- and off-campus.

Where is your hometown?

I am from West Des Moines, Iowa.

What is your degree/program of study?

I am majoring in public health on the pre-medicine track.

Why did you choose to study public health? What about it interests you?

I chose to study public health because I am fascinated by the hard sciences and mechanisms of life, but I am also passionate about social justice. Public health addresses the root causes of health inequities, and I get an interdisciplinary breadth of study while intertwining the aspects of life and health I wanted to make a difference in, not only the biological side of medicine, but the humanitarian side too.

You founded Love For Red, an organization to help fight period poverty. What motivated you to create the group and why is its work important?

I founded Love For Red, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to fight period poverty in Iowa through service, advocacy, and awareness, in 2020 as a sophomore in high school. Growing up, women in my life recounted stories about their difficult experiences with menstruation from a lack of available period products, and in high school I learned of the struggles women in prisons go through due to not having these products. I found that this issue of inaccessibility was prevalent not only in other countries and prisons, but in the United States and specifically in our communities as well. I realized that there were not many organizations addressing this issue, so I decided to establish my own!

The reality is that the over-stigmatization and under-discussion of menstruation and period poverty is causing people with periods to suffer in silence due to both monetary and physical inaccessibility of period products. Love For Red’s work is important because it’s about more than just access to hygiene products; it’s about dignity, equity, and empowerment. We take a multifaceted approach to address and tackle period poverty in which we donate period products to schools and organizations, advocate for systemic policy change at the state and local level, and bring awareness to period poverty and to challenge the stigma. We have donated over 60,000 period products to menstruators in need across Iowa and currently serve 47 organizations, 22 of which are schools.

How can people get involved?

We host and participate in a number of events that require volunteer support. To see upcoming Love For Red events to volunteer at, you can check out the “events” page on our website: If you are interested in joining our team as a member, please reach out to us at To support our cause and find other ways to help, you can visit the “donate” page on our website and follow our social media (@LoveForRedOrg on all platforms).

What other activities are you involved in, and why do you think it’s important for students to engage with on-campus and community organizations outside of the classroom?

On campus, I direct the Love For Red Iowa City team, conduct research in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinical and Research Laboratories, and dance as a part of Iowa Andhi, the university’s South Asian Fusion Dance Team. Outside of campus, I am on the board of directors for the Family Planning Council of Iowa (an organization that works to provide Iowans with quality reproductive health care and family planning services through delegation of federal Title X funds) and I lead Love for Red’s work across Iowa. Getting involved with organizations and activities outside the classroom is valuable to gain new experiences and build relationships, as well as having opportunities to explore and delve into your interests, personal values, and passions.

What are your plans post-graduation?

My goals after graduation are to pursue medical school to contribute to women’s health and better health outcomes for underserved demographics and communities. I also plan to continue expanding Love For Red and integrating this work with my career ambitions to reach more people with periods in need and make more progress in our service, advocacy, and awareness goals.

What have you enjoyed most about your time at the College of Public Health?

I have enjoyed meeting other students, seeing familiar faces in my public health classes, and hearing other students’ passions and motivations behind pursuing public health. I am also inspired by the College of Public Health professors and the stories of their work and the real-world experiences in public health that they share.

Photo by Joey Loboda