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Benedict Tiger Pantry gets Major Upgrade to Provide Healthier Food

New initiative educates HBCU students on risk of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy at Benedict College

COLUMBIA, December 4, 2023 — The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, is working in the Midlands community to educate Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) students about the risk associated with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).

In an effort promote a heart healthy lifestyle, the American Heart Association is upgrading the student pantry at Benedict College to ensure healthy food options are always accessible to students. The food pantry will now be equipped with commercial style display refrigerator units for cold options, including fresh fruits and vegetables, and more robust offerings of healthy grab and go snacks.

“The American Heart Association is excited to lead this initiative in the Columbia area,” said Crystal Kirkland, executive director of the American Heart Association, Midlands. “The area surrounding the college is considered a food desert, so it’s imperative that the students can conveniently access healthy food options to maintain the healthiest lifestyle possible.” 

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is defined by thickening and stiffening of the walls of the heart. As a result, the heart is unable to function normally since the chambers cannot fill up or adequately pump blood.

HCM is the most common condition responsible for sudden cardiac death (SCD) in young athletes. It is the cause of SCD in nearly 40% of cases. Nearly two-thirds of athletes who suffered SCD were 17 years old or younger and still in high school. Studies have also revealed a strong male preponderance for SCD, particularly in African American athletes who compete in sports with sudden movements and adrenaline and noradrenaline surges such as football or basketball.

HBCUs and HSIs on average have about 500 athletes spanning all sports on campus. There is an estimated one in 500 people with HCM, although a large percentage of those cases remain undiagnosed. The American Heart Association is taking a stance to educate and encourage early testing and working alongside our communities to ensure that everyone has the chance to learn about the potential risk of HCM. HCM is the most common form of inherited heart disease and can affect people of any age. If you struggle with shortness of breath, chest pain or heart palpitations, fatigue, fainting, or if you have a family history of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) or sudden cardiac death, speak to your doctor about HCM.

The American Heart Association’s HCM awareness and education in athletes program is made possible in part by a grant from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation. For more information, visit

About the American Heart Association  

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookX or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.    

For Media Inquiries: 

Maranda Williams: 803-873-2563;   

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721) and  

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