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Monarchs Market grand opening pop-up

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Students enjoyed warm meals during the first of many food distributions.

By Jasmine Alejandre, Staff Writer

Students line up to get groceries at the Monarch Market Grand Opening at Valley College on Wednesday (Violett De Jean | Valley Star)

Students at Valley College were provided warm meals, groceries and resources on Wednesday at the grand opening of the Monarch Market pop-up.

Fresh fruit, bread, canned food and many more options were distributed to students. Monarchs also had the option between burritos and subway sandwiches. There were a total of 100 subway sandwiches and 200 burritos distributed, enough meals for about 300 students. The warm meals and groceries were provided by the Valley Foundation and by Student LunchBox, a nonprofit organization committed to helping college students.

“This is helping me because in my household we’re depending on just my dad’s income,” said Lily Fuentes, second year psychology major. “I got some stuff for everyone and it's really going to help out because groceries are so expensive.”

The market pop-up is brought to students by Valley’s Basic Needs Center. Juan Castellanos is at the helm of the center, serving as both counselor and coordinator. Basic needs assistance is something close to his heart, having been homeless himself at the age of 22 after his father passed away. Castellanos lived in his car for some time and couch surfed many nights. He says it is important to him to help students because during this difficult time his college did not have the resources to help him.

Lialla Ghahramanyan, a counseling intern, helps stock a table of groceries at the Monarch Market Grand Opening at Valley College on Wednesday (Violett De Jean | Valley Star)

“The ultimate goal is to prevent a basic need for insecurity, rather than have to intervene,” said Castellanos. “It's important to bring awareness and resources. Our work is heavily rooted in equity.”

Community colleges throughout the state began to create resource centers that address food and housing insecurity among the student population last year, as mandated by AB-132.

The bill states that “the basic needs center is intended to be a one-stop, single location and point of contact for students to more easily access and gain awareness of basic needs services and resources.”

Homelessness is a problem many students face. A recent study conducted by UCLA found that one in five California community college students are homeless. The housing crisis makes it harder for students to focus on their education.

“A lot of students are facing challenges, especially after the pandemic,” said Lucia Martinez, an intern for the Basic Needs Center. “It's important to help them so they can do good academically.”


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