On Saturday at 8:30 AM, thirty minutes before customers can come, Ms. Kirk (left) and a volunteer, Mr. Jacques Moutome (right), plan how they will organize the tables. (Zoe MacDiarmid)

On March 11, 2020, Wilde Lake High School Spanish teacher Erika Chavarria posted a tweet: “If they close HCPSS I volunteer to run meals to students and families who are in need, or help in locations where food will be offered. Who is with me???”

Schools closed just two days later and Ms. Chavarria began working on what is now known as Columbia Community Care, or CCC. After two years, the group is still growing and responding to need in the community, which highlights systemic injustices, according to Ms. Chavarria. Every Saturday, CCC runs three distribution centers — Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, Long Reach Village Center, and Oakland Mills Middle School — and grocery delivery services. 

According to Ms. Chavarria, some of the families the group helps are “barely making it,” even while working full-time jobs. Some families are still trying to decide whether they pay the electric bill or provide food, says Ms. Chavarria. With CCC, she says they can choose the electric bill.

In 2020, the average household income in Howard County was $124,042, according to the Census. However, this doesn’t tell the full story. Free and Reduced Meals, otherwise known as FARMs, is available to students who fall within certain income brackets. For a family of four, the household income must be $51,338 or less. The only factors that are considered are the number of people in a household and gross income. 

In 2021, 23.1% of all students in Howard County and 40.3% of Wilde Lake High School students received FARMs benefits. 

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