As the Bergen County Board of Commissioners convened recently, one issue emerged as a stark reminder of the challenges facing the community: a burgeoning food security crisis. In their deliberations, the commissioners expressed deep concern over the escalating situation, the numbers of food-insecure individuals surpassing even those recorded during the pandemic peak.
The alarming revelation was a focal point of the meeting, following the third annual Bergen County Food Security Summit. This event, which saw participation from over 50 local food pantries and providers, offered a platform to strategize a robust response to the crisis. However, it also underscored the dire circumstances faced by countless families within the county, an issue demanding immediate and sustained action.
Commissioner Marte brought significant attention to this concern, building upon her recent discussions with the president and chief executive officer of Greater Bergen Community Action. Together, they explored avenues to create a more sustainable community, recognizing that alleviating food insecurity forms a cornerstone of this endeavor. Yet, Commissioner Marte stressed, such a task cannot be undertaken by policymakers alone, making a poignant call for collective community involvement to combat hunger and ensure everyone in Bergen County can access their most basic needs.
The board lauded a recent fundraising concert by Bergen Tech that benefited the food security task force and a “lunch and learn” event with the Bergen County Job Center. The latter is aimed at connecting food pantries with job providers, an initiative that encapsulates the broad-based approach to combat the food security crisis. The board also noted Congressman Gotheimer’s proposed bill to clarify food labeling, an issue of relevance for food pantries and environmental sustainability alike.
While the food security crisis dominated the conversation, the public’s voice found representation through Mr. Meehan from Hackensack, who steered the direction towards a discussion of ethics. He pushed for the revival of the Bergen County attorney council, tasked with oversight of ethics violations among officials. He cited the historical case involving Rob Hamilton, a Freeholder once charged with an ethics violation related to Wells Fargo. Meehan’s compelling argument was that such matters should reside within the purview of the Bergen County commission. This contention, while currently under advisement by the commission’s attorney, Mr. Florio, indicates an evolving discourse around checks and balances at the local government level.