A Look at HCC’s Food Resource Center


David Land

HCC’s more expansive food pantry offers a variety of nutritious foods for students in need.

TJ Cyrus

Did you know that Howard Community College offers free food to students in need?

Throughout the pandemic, the threat of food insecurity became increasingly persistent to the point where Congress temporarily increased the Supplemental Nutritional Health Program (SNAP) and raised monetary benefits (“food dollars”) by 15%, which provided nearly $30 more per person monthly (more than $100 more per month for a household of four) in additional SNAP benefits.

However, that increase has since expired, and the Maryland Food Bank estimates that roughly 2 million Marylanders may currently be facing food insecurity. This has led HCC to improve and revamp its food resources to better meet the community’s needs.

Fueling Dragons, HCC’s food resource programs, offer a more expansive food pantry for students facing food insecurity. Students who visit the food pantry are encouraged to take 10 food items – 12 if they bring a reusable bag – per visit. Note that some of the larger food items count for multiple items. The pantry also offers a variety of recipe cards explaining how to prepare meals.

The food pantry is organized by how healthy each item is. The organizing system, Supporting Wellness At Pantries (SWAP), uses three color identifiers.

“SWAP is all about green, yellow, and red — green being our healthy choices, which is all about [food that is] low in sugar, low in sodium, and low in saturated fats,” explained Tiffany Holtzman, the Fueling Dragons coordinator.

Guests are encouraged to select the majority of their items from the “green” category while taking a few items from the “yellow” and “red” categories. Foods found in the “green” category include canned carrots, lentils and whole-grain rotini, wheras foods such as sweet peas and macaroni and cheese belong to the “yellow” category. More savory foods like chili and SpaghettiOs fall within the “red” category.

There are many features of the pantry, including a fresh bread section, a beverage section and a grains section — as well as meal kits containing a recipe and ingredients that create two meals for a family of four. The pantry also has a mixed dish & meal section, a section for snacks and a fresh produce section. Holtzman mentioned that she’s very excited about the fresh produce section specifically, as HCC has a garden with planted produce that will give way to a bountiful harvest in the spring.

The pantry is also open to volunteers who can help by stocking the pantry, sorting food items into their respective categories and checking expiration dates. Aside from volunteering, there are many other ways to make a difference.

The pantry accepts food donations from students and employees, which can be dropped at the pantry, the Hickory Ridge welcome desk, the RCF welcome desk or outside the Student Life office (SA 200). Students can also host food drives or participate in service learning to benefit the pantry. To learn more about volunteering or how you can help, contact the pantry at [email protected].

The Fueling Dragons programs have more to offer than just the food pantry, however. On the Food Resources page are recipe and skill videos aimed to help students develop a sense of confidence and comfort in the kitchen with food preparation and safety. Also coming to the website is a section for workshops that teach students how to cook using the meal kits; this program is set to develop starting in spring 2022.

For more information about the pantry or Fueling Dragons in general, visit the Food Resources page on the HCC website. You can also contact the Wellness Center at 443-518-4950, visit the pantry directly at Clark Library (CL) 169, or visit the Wellness Center (CL 178), which offers walk-in appointments.