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Food insecurity has always been a hidden issue in Bergen County. Now, with so many residents out of work, paying the rent or the mortgage and putting food on the table has been a challenge for more and more families.  Many have turned to food pantries and meal programs, such as our meal and produce distribution site in Englewood, to help stretch any savings they might have.  It is becoming very clear that, as the pandemic continues, these programs will be more necessary than ever.

Last month, Bergen County created a food security task force endorsed by County Executive Jim Tedesco and led by Freeholder Tracy Zur to study the problem with the goal of finding ways to address the needs of all residents.  “During our outreach a couple months ago, the County of Bergen realized that so many local food efforts and pantries were exhausting their donations and unable to sustain the high demands brought on by the pandemic,” according to Marisa Tugultschinow from the County Executive’s office, who is coordinating the efforts of the initiative. The goals of the task force are to determine the scope of food insecurity in our county, identify underserved communities, gauge our available resources, and determine how all food providers can collaborate to make the biggest impact, now and in the future.

The task force has met virtually twice and is creating an interactive map to publicize where people can get food close to where they live. Subcommittees have formed charged with data collection, building a distribution network for supplies, engaging new suppliers, engaging volunteers and public outreach.

These are important first steps in addressing food insecurity – HUNGER – in our community. Family Promise, through its program with World Central Kitchen in Englewood and our Walk-in Dinner with its 29-year history, is an important voice at the table.

By Kate Duggan