Story by Nicole Villanueva
The Nutrition Center at Palomar College recently underwent some much-needed expansion.
Palomar administrators have been assisting the food insecure community on campus since 1983. However, as food insecurity remains a steadily growing issue, the need for help was outweighing the resources available on campus.
After receiving a $400,000 donation, The Anita and Stan Maag Food and Nutrition Center was reconstructed from an old faculty lounge into the new nutrition center that opened in the fall of 2018.
The new center located at SU-40A, has newly installed refrigerators that provide students with fresh produce, dairy, and perishable options.
Recently, the installation of a loading dock made it possible for the center to receive food in larger quantities. The workers at the center now have a functional space to better serve the campus community.
Beyond the physical improvements, there were multiple changes to the supplies and food provided by the center. The new, well-rounded food selection now extends beyond canned items and provides food for a variety of dietary needs.
Fresh fruit, potatoes, eggs and ready-made steaks are a few examples of what students can expect in the center. Recipes and meal ideas are printed and provided throughout the center for inspiration.
Serena Lee, who helps manage and oversee the daily operations of the nutrition center, recalled a time when a student with celiac disease visited the center.
Lee claimed the student mentioned limited options at other food assistance locations. The student regarded that the food provided by the center was able to provide for her specific dietary need.
“She was so happy she cried,” Lee said.
Another improvement includes the new database that was acquired in January. The center utilizes the same database as The San Diego Food Bank, one of their supporting partners.
The new system allows the center to streamline the way the center signs on and assesses individual needs for students. Through signing in on the new database, students are automatically enrolled in over 40 other San Diego food assistance locations.
This helps reduce the hassle of requiring students to sign up multiple times at various center locations. Students are also provided with a take home reusable shopping bag and resources to find additional support off-campus.
Lee reported records from the database show that there are now 385 students who visit the center on a regular basis since January.
Kevin Cuntreras, a Palomar student, recently signed up for access to the center and said that the center will help him save money.
According to Cuntreras, the process to sign up was simple. Cuntreras said he was required to fill out paperwork and review policies such as frequency of visits and limitations for certain items provided.
In regards to the food selection provided by the center, Cuntreras said the center had a good variety.
“There was everything I would have looked for in a normal grocery store,” Cuntreras said.
Overall, he felt the support that was provided by the center was fair.
The center’s end goal is to gather qualifying students to sign up with CalFresh, a program that provides individuals with food stamps. Twice a month, a representative from CalFresh visits the campus to help make signing up more accessible to students.
Recently, a diaper program has been implemented, expanding to cater to parent demographics on campus. Lee said the response to this addition has been a joyous relief to many who feel it’s additional stress removed from their situation.
There are efforts to make food support on campus more recognizable. Food-supplying events have been moved from inside the SEAL room on campus to outside, where students can easily walk up and receive food.
“There’s no reason to keep it inside,” Lee said, “let’s keep it as visible as we can. It’s dignified and there’s no shame in needing help.”
Students who would like access to food support on campus or would like to know more information, visit the food bank’s site at www2.palomar.edu/pages/studentaffairs/student-assistance/palomar-college-food-bank/ or visit The Stan and Anita Maag Center Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. or The Student Affairs Office at SU-201.