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Palomar College uses innovation to better serve students

SAN MARCOS – As college students make progress on their path to a degree or certificate, they typically encounter challenges, some of which can be addressed through on-campus support programs. At Palomar College, serving the basic needs of students is a priority and doing so helps to remove barriers to student success.

According to recent research, 50% of college students in San Diego face food insecurity, which means they do not have reliable, consistent access to food. This obstacle increases the likelihood that students will miss classes or drop out of school.

For 40 years, Palomar College has maintained a food pantry to meet the food security needs of thousands of students and employees. It was a little over five years ago that the college opened the Anita & Stan Maag Food and Nutrition Center, providing a comfortable stigma-free environment to shop for perishable and non-perishable items and other basic needs.

The college also hosts monthly farmers markets and offers free snacks at “grab ‘n go” refrigerators at all sites. During the spring 2024 semester, access to these services will expand considerably as Palomar College launches a new secure storage locker system.

The “smart lockers” as they are referred to, will provide the Palomar College Student Life & Leadership team with the ability to fulfill orders for perishable and non-perishable items, through an automated ordering system. Students who are registered with the Anita and Stan Maag Food & Nutrition Center will request the items they need and select one of six locker locations to pick up their items.

“This system allows us to serve more students, specifically students who may be coming to campus when the Food & Nutrition Center is closed,” Pippa Pierce, supervisor of the student life and leadership department, said. “The availability of the lockers also helps us to better respond when we receive urgent requests.”

Three locker systems have been installed on the main campus in San Marcos and one system at each of the Education Centers in Escondido, Fallbrook and Rancho Bernardo. Half of the lockers are refrigerated and designed to safely store perishable items. Students will be given a code to a specific locker to pick up their items.

“Education is the most significant pathway to a life free of poverty and food insecurity, and our students are deserving of every opportunity,” Star Rivera-Lacey, superintendent and president of Palomar College, said. “The academic success of our students is our primary focus and our ability to better serve their basic needs when it best suits them will improve our level of response and have a positive impact on their progress toward a degree or certificate.”

Palomar College partnered with Quadient, a leader in business solutions for meaningful customer connections through digital and physical channels and a major global parcel locker operator, to introduce this system throughout its locations.

Funds from the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund were utilized for this project. Palomar is the first community college to use the lockers for the purpose of delivering basic needs to students. Students can register in person for all basic need services at the Anita and Stan Maag Food & Nutrition Center.

Submitted by Palomar College.


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