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The Berkeley College Foundation celebrated the opening of a Food Pantry at Berkeley College’s Woodland Park campus during a ceremony on Sept. 14.

The student resource – the third pantry at a Berkeley College campus – ensures students have access to proper nourishment without sacrificing their education.

“Food insecurity is a problem that strikes at the heart of New Jersey and Passaic County,” said Diane Recinos, EdD, President of Berkeley College. “Our students are working hard in the classroom, at their internships, and at their jobs, but hunger can make it hard to focus, and hard to be successful.”

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey estimates that 140,000 college students experience food insecurity across the Garden State.

Ellen Zitis, Executive Director, Berkeley College Foundation, said the situation is referred to as an “invisible epidemic” that is spilling onto college campuses across the country. “The COVID-19 pandemic exposed issues where many people just did not think to look. Certainly food insecurity at colleges was one of them,” Zitis said.

In 2011, the College & University Food Bank Alliance reported 88 college food pantries across the United States. In 2021, that number has grown to more than 700.

“Food insecurity is an issue being experienced by many college students nationwide and has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, which has caused costs of food and other basic needs to significantly increase,” said James Marshmon, Director, Student Development and Campus Life, who also serves as the Food Pantry Manager at Berkeley College in Woodland Park.

The food pantry was established in collaboration with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, with additional donations from ShopRite of Passaic and Primepak. It offers not only meal essentials, but also household items and toiletries.

Berkeley College launched its first Food Pantry in Newark in 2019, made possible through a $10,000 donation from the Berkeley College Foundation. The Foundation established a second pantry at the College’s Midtown Manhattan campus in February 2021.

Jocelyn Gonzalez of Piscataway, NJ, a Berkeley College student and single mother, said she has utilized the food pantry since she enrolled in fall 2021.

“As a single mom, the food pantry has helped to lighten the load of everyday life,” said Gonzalez, who hopes to one day be a social worker. “It gives you more time to focus on your academics. We are here to be successful, career-driven individuals who give back to society the way Berkeley gives back to their students.”

The Berkeley College Foundation Food Pantry is open every other Wednesday during the fall 2022 semester and as needed for food emergencies. Students can also place orders online, which can be picked up at Berkeley College in Woodland Park. In addition, the Office of Student Development and Campus Life offers a “Grab and Go” option once a month, with themed bags of food such as breakfasts, lunches, or holiday dinner items.