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Faculty lounge to be converted into food bank

Palomar College Food Bank Nov. 18, 2015. (Hanadi Cackler/The Telescope)
Palomar College Food Bank Nov. 18, 2015. (Hanadi Cackler/The Telescope)

The staff lounge, next to the Cafeteria and SU-Quad, is now being converted into a food bank for students.

The shift has been cultural, not just for students but faculty as well. Bob Wilson, who generously donated to the expansion of the food bank in honor of his dear friends, Stan and Anita Maag, named it after them, and it has been a huge part of transforming the mindset of helping students when they can’t provide food for themselves, or they need assistance in healthy eating.

Chelsea Kott, Supervisor of the Office of Student Affairs, explained her side of the project with assistance from Juan Gonzalez, who works as the Student Activities Coordinator in Student Affairs.

Students looking to be of service without having the extra hours to do so can get involved as well. The Food and Nutrition Center always accepts monetary donations, which goes directly toward purchasing food at the San Diego Food Bank where the Office of Student Affairs receives around 400 pounds of food for $50.

“We go to the San Diego Food Bank in North County, and we can purchase food extremely cheap. With stock, and the advertising going around, the cultural shift that follows is that it’s not a student coming in needing food, it’s a shopping experience,” Kott said.

Students can come into the Office of Student Affairs and are given a form to fill out based on their needs. The information is kept private, and students are asked to fill it out to help find out where the needs are, how they can assist and how they’re using the food that is given to them.

There are other outlets used as well, such as Cal Fresh, who supply low-income individuals and families with healthy alternatives in food choice. Kott explained they also can set students up with representatives from Cal Fresh if they’re looking for an additional resource.

Palomar College Food Bank Nov. 18, 2015. Hanadi Cackler/ The Telescope
Palomar College Food Bank Nov. 18, 2015. Hanadi Cackler/ The Telescope

“Our food bank is intended to be an emergency supplemental need,” Kott said, and added “students can use it once a month. If there is a dire need and they need to use it more than that, then we’ll work with them one-on-one.” Kott also said faculty and staff are welcome to use it too.

The food bank is not just a one-time use, where students come in and must wait a full month before being able to use it again, but it’s a continual process between Student Affairs assisting the student, helping them get what they need and staggering how they use the food throughout the month. They’ll then help connect them with Cal Fresh if they’re eligible, as well as connecting them to the county, which provides resources as well.

“It’s definitely increasing,” Kott said on the growing need of the food bank. Part of the growth has come from the new free food event they’re hosting, #PalomarEatsNow, which occurs every Thursday from 11:30 a.m. -1:30 pm in the SEAL center, giving students access to free food.

For students who qualify, Phi Theta Kappa, Palomar’s honor society, also organizes efforts to support and volunteer for the food bank. PTK’s President, Riley M, encourages students to get involved: “Students and faculty alike are working to improve the Nutrition Center on campus, but one of our most desperate needs right now is for more volunteers. The students at Palomar College who are food insecure need your help. Some of them are homeless. These are real people, your flesh-and-blood peers, and all they need of you is a little bit of your time. Please consider volunteering today.”

This has been a great way for educating and pointing students in the right direction for better eating, including information on how they can pick up food monthly with the help of the food bank on campus.

For students who are low on cash or have untouched non-perishables in the back of their cupboards, look for, as the food bank website states, “The Three Ps – Peanut Butter, Pasta Sauce, & Protein (canned chicken/tuna).” Donations may be dropped off to SU-201.

“It’s about food, community, gathering and bringing people together,” Kott said, and part of the program is to find the best way to represent that.

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Faculty lounge to be converted into food bank