PARAMUS, N.J. – Last year, the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University “#RealCollege” survey revealed that 37 percent of the 1,177 Bergen Community College students who responded to the study faced food insecurity at some point during a 30-day period. Food insecurity represents the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire such food in a socially acceptable manner.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to upend working class families’ finances, it remains likely that, if surveyed again, a greater number of students would acknowledge food insecurity as well. These challenges often disproportionately impact students of color, as noted in the “Social Determinants of Health” research by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
With the backdrop of the nation’s recognition of Black History Month, and in response to the growing challenges faced by a community stressed by both the pandemic and existing food insecurity, the College’s Black History Month Committee and members of its hotel and restaurant management program recently sponsored a “grocery care basket giveaway” to assist students, faculty and staff in need of healthy food.
Led by Professor Ronda Drakeford and staff member Sherry Wilson (pictured), the pair assembled more than four dozen meal kits that featured whole chickens, fruits and vegetables (donated by Englewood-based Riviera Produce), canned goods and grains. In light of the pandemic, the pair arranged for no-contact pickup and even provided a mechanism for anonymity – a frequent challenge for those facing food insecurity due to the discomfort of needing assistance.
“Hunger is real,” Wilson said. “It’s with our neighbors; it’s with our friends. We, as members of this Bergen community have an obligation to help. I’m grateful for the donations we received from our partners and hopeful that we can continue to address hunger concerns in Bergen County.”
In recent years, the College has expanded its holistic services aimed at eliminating barriers students face that impact their progression toward a degree or certificate. Among them, Bergen partners with the Center for Food Action to assist students who experience food insecurity. Additionally, the College receives donations through its 501(c)3 (the Bergen Community College Foundation) and New Jersey’s Community College Opportunity Grant program to address the issue as well.
The College further supports students through a comprehensive Center for Health, Wellness and Personal Counseling to address physical and emotional well-being, a nationally recognized tutoring center and an Office of Specialized Services for students with disabilities.
Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.
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