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June 16, 2021



Derek Sands

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Bergen County Technical Schools Launches Recipe Book for Food Pantries

This week, the Bergen County Technical Schools launched a website in partnership with the Bergen County Food Security Task Force featuring recipes and instructional videos on how to make creative meals out of food commonly received in the boxes provided by food pantries.

The website features over 60 recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Students from culinary programs in all three technical schools, Bergen Academies, Bergen Tech, and Paramus Tech participated to create a robust cookbook, which will be disseminated through the Food Security Task Force to their pantry network.

“I am proud that our dedicated students at the Bergen County Technical Schools in Paramus, Teterboro and Hackensack are working together on such an important project,” said County Executive James Tedesco. “The hands-on learning, and direct engagement with real issues is what makes our county schools so special, where these students have learned how to use their talents to be part of a solution.”

“The engagement of our County schools in finding solutions to food insecurity is vital to creating the next generation of advocates for this cause,” said Commissioner Vice Chairwoman Tracy Silna Zur. “Bergen County has seen a 71% increase in food insecurity, totaling over 103,000 residents who do not know from where their next meal is coming. Coupled with the vast unemployment rates, many families have been forced to rely on pantry food for weeks, or even months on end, meaning mostly nonperishables and dry goods.”

Food pantries often distribute items such as pasta, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, and for some, frozen meats and fish. Although pasta is filling, without inspiration, meals become repetitive very quickly. These student-created recipes are inspired by various different cuisines, utilizing diverse flavors with the simplest ingredients.

“Understanding what our community needs and how we can help is such an important aspect of learning in our schools,” said Superintendent of the Bergen County Technical Schools Howard Lerner. “We are honored to engage with the county food insecurity initiatives to show our students the impact that their ideas and innovation can have.” 

“After moving to a virtual setting due to COVID-19, we had to completely change our lesson plans for our culinary students,” said Chef Maria Arellano of Paramus Tech High School. “Participating in this project has allowed our culinary students to be part of a real solution to a current issue, while staying home and socially distant.”

"The #FeedBergen project engaged the students in the needs of our community while learning practical applications about composing menus from pantry ingredients while considering the nutritional value and nutrients” said Bergen Academies Chef Mary Beth Brace. “Math, computer applications, and presentation skills where among the skill sets applied, all while thinking about our neighbors and the food insecure population."

“Learning that so many of my neighbors in Bergen County are struggling with food insecurity was very eye-opening” said Bergen Academies Student Caitlyn Park. “In creating recipes from the standard pantry box, I realized that even such simple ingredients can be a base for all different kinds of meals from all over the world.”

“When simply obtaining food is a stressor in itself, figuring out what to do with that food should not be an added burden.” said Bergen Tech High School Chef Dominic Branda. “By using these recipes, I hope those who are struggling are able to reimagine what their meals can be, and that there can be a joy in cooking even using the same set of ingredients.”

Recipes and video tutorials can be found at

The Bergen County Food Security Task Force officially launched in July 2020 in response to the unprecedented increase in food insecurity in Bergen County after the onset of the pandemic. The Task Force collects data to better understand hunger in Bergen County and brings key stakeholders together to develop best practices for food distribution and infrastructure development.

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