Feed Bergen: Combating Food Insecurity in Bergen County


Margaret O

Rates of food insecurity, the lack of consistent access to nutritious food, have steeply risen as a result of the pandemic. In 2020, Feeding America estimated 50.4 million US people to be food-insecure, a 13.2 million increase from 2018. Prior to lockdown, around 90,000 people in Bergen County alone experienced inadequate access to nutritious and affordable food, and this number is expected to be much higher in 2021. To combat this growing issue in Bergen County and beyond, BCA juniors Amelia Okulewicz, Penelope LaScala, and Deandra Lulea are leading Feed Bergen, a student run organization committed to reducing food insecurity.

This community service team was started last year by the BCA SkillsUSA chapter, a career and technical organization promoting vocational pursuits. SkillsUSA hosts a number of competitions and campaigns, and Feed Bergen is involved with the Community Service competition. This year, Amelia, Deandra, and Penelope took over this organization and turned to social media for their activism.

Feed Bergen has an instagram account (@feedbergen) where they post educational updates, promote fundraising, and share recipes. They even received recognition from the SkillsUSA official instagram on their “What You Can Eat in a Day” post which created three substantial meals using common ingredients found in food banks. 

“As many of our chapter members are part of our school’s Culinary Academy, we aimed to use our skills to create nutritious recipes that accommodate a low income budget,” said Amelia. These recipes can be found on the instagram along with short videos demonstrating the process.

Instagram post featuring breakfast burritos for breakfast, pasta salad for lunch, and stuffed peppers dinner. Full recipes can be found on instagram @feedbergen.

Feed Bergen meets weekly to discuss ways to raise money and awareness for this issue. To create tangible change in the community, they correspond with Tracy Zur, the Bergen County Commissioner as well as Never Alone Again, a domestic abuse shelter with a food pantry accommodating 140 members.

Feed Bergen meeting with top left clockwise: Lucine Beylerian, Amelia Okulewicz, Penelope LaScala, Deandra Lulea, Tracy Zur, Mary Brace.

Although Feed Bergen could not visit Never Alone Again in person due to COVID-19 restrictions, they were able to raise $475 for the shelter. Much of this fundraising was done through social media, as they encouraged friends, family, and Instagram followers to donate money through Venmo.

Another key part of their campaign is spreading awareness. “Within this project, our team worked to educate students in our school about this pressing issue and motivate them to be a part of the solution,” Amelia said. The education is done not only through social media, but also in SkillsUSA meetings. Their campaign was also featured in the “Activism at BCA” presentation for International Day of Acceptance.

Feed Bergen hopes to grow into an official BCA club and continue to spread their message and take action. Make sure to check out their instagram page @feedbergen to learn more about the devastating effects of food insecurity, as well as the ways we can challenge it in our own communities.


Reference: https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2020-10/Brief_Local%20Impact_10.2020_0.pdf