National surveys show that more than half of community college students in the United States worry about where they’re going to get their next meal. To help MC students overcome their own food insecurities, the College continues to bolster the “Fuel for Success Food Campaign” programs that provide free food to hungry students. Now, thanks to a generous donor, the College also provides students free hot lunches and grab-and-go snack bags.
“We try to make everything we do available and accessible to all students. We want everyone to feel free and comfortable,” said Sergio Washington, who heads the food programs. “We are supporting them while they work toward their educational goals and move forward with life.”
The Fuel for Success Food Campaign is managed under the Student Health and Wellness (SHaW) Center for Success. Once a month, staff distribute bags of food to students in need—no questions asked. The bags are filled with hearty and nutritious snacks such as pasta or oatmeal bowls, granola bars, and fruit cups or applesauce.
The lunch-on-the-go events—held once a month at each campus—vary meal components but normally include hamburgers, hot dogs, or soup. In November, Thanksgiving-inspired meals, dubbed Thanks and Giving, feature seasonal items.
We are supporting them while they work toward their educational goals and move forward with life
At each event, the center gives away 200 lunches or snack bags at the Rockville Campus, 175 at Takoma Park/Silver Spring, and 125 at the Germantown Campus, respectively.
Mobile Market – Nov. 6 and Dec. 4 at North Garage (10 a.m.–noon)
Lunch on the Go – Nov. 19 at SC Atrium (noon–2 p.m.)
Grab and Go Snack Bags – Dec. 9, outside of TA/CC (noon–2 p.m.)
Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus
Mobile Market – Nov. 13 and Dec. 11 at ST Atrium (2–4 p.m.)
Lunch on the Go – Nov. 21 at ST Atrium (noon–2 p.m.)
Grab and Go Snack Bags – Dec. 3 at ST Atrium (noon–2 p.m.)
Mobile Market – Nov. 20, outside of SA (10 a.m.–noon)
Lunch on the Go – Nov. 12 at BE Atrium (noon–2 p.m.)
Grab and Go Snack Bags – Dec. 10, outside of SA/HS (noon–2 p.m.)
In yet another method to meet hungry students where they are, the SHaW Center now provides food opportunities to targeted populations such as veterans, single parents, and students who have aged out of the foster care system. The SHaW Center partners with Nourish Now, a nonprofit food bank for county residents. This targeted approach affords fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy, to about 60 Montgomery College students, once a month.
In addition, through a partnership with Panera Bread that started in the spring, staff deliver baked goods collegewide on a weekly basis.
“Every Tuesday, we go to Panera in Rockville and we pick up a donation. Normally, it ranges anywhere from two or three boxes, to 11 or 12 boxes of food,” said Washington, adding that the SHaW Center connects with Student Life at each campus for distribution purposes. “Each week we take it to a different campus and then they give it out to students.”
For years at Montgomery College, campus food pantries have offered non-perishable foods to students. And more recently the mobile markets, a partnership program with the Capital Area Food Book Bank, has provided students and community members fresh fruit and vegetables at giveaway events on campus at no cost.
Last year, the SHaW Center distributed 178,000 pounds of food at the mobile markets, more than 2,000 snack bags, 2,000 lunches, and $9,000 worth of Panera Bread donations. After a summer trial, they have decided to extend the mobile markets to include the two MC summer sessions.
Many who take advantage of the mobile markets tell the volunteers about the difference it makes for them and in their lives as they juggle schoolwork, jobs, and home life.
“We get that feedback and it is truly heartwarming,” Washington said. “Because, what it really means, is that they appreciate what we’re doing for them.”