Berkeley College opens food pantry on Woodland Park campus to combat food insecurity
As food prices continue to climb, one New Jersey college is hoping to give its students assistance by opening food pantries.
The need for food pantries saw an increase at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now inflation is proving that the need continues. To combat this issue, the Berkely College Student Development Office has started a food pantry to help bridge the gap for the students when their resources are low.
“I don't have a full-time job, but I am a full-time mom,” says student Jocelyn Gonzalez. “The food pantry was such a help for me.”
Gonzalez attends the Woodland Park campus of Berkeley College. She says she has had to deal with food insecurity, especially after her bills have been paid.
“You’re on a budget – well, I am, as a student. And so sometimes I have to wait until the end of the month, and I just don’t have it economically and financially,” she says.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation last week requiring New Jersey schools to provide free breakfast and lunch for students in grades K-12 for working- and middle-class families. But this law does not include higher education.
Berkely College's Woodland Park Campus saw the need and the success of food pantries at their other campuses and opened a pantry on this campus to help the growing number of students dealing with food insecurity.
“We just put out our first electronic order for our opening week…We had 75 orders in that first week. For a school the size that we are, that is an increase of about 25%,” says Heather Eaton- Dwyer, dean of students.
There are currently 140,000 college students in New Jersey who are facing food insecurity, according to LaTysha Gaines, Woodland Park’s chief operating officer.
“That's one of the main reasons why we thought this was extremely important to have this type of resource available to our students,” says Gaines.
A report released on Tuesday showed that inflation remains the highest it's been in 40 years. And even with gas prices dropping, consumer prices rose just over 8% compared to this time last year. The cost of necessities like food also continues to rise, putting a strain on the wallets of New Jersey residents.
“Being a single mom it's hard, but Berkely has made it easier,” says Gonzalez.
The Community Food Bank of New Jersey says college students are particularly vulnerable to hunger. Over a dozen colleges work with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey to supply their food pantries.