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Donations pour in to help family after N.J. girl cries on Zoom that they have no food
Patriot-News - 2/26/2021
A third-grade Monmouth County, N.J., girl started sobbing in the middle of her Zoom class and when asked what was wrong, told her teacher and her peers that she was starving.
The girl’s mother lost her job and they didn’t have anything to eat, a problem being magnified across the state by the coronavirus pandemic.
A social worker from the girl’s school determined the family was in need and picked up food for her, her two siblings and their mother from Fulfill, formerly known as The Food Bank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties.
The family received enough food to feed four people for four days, toiletry items and fresh produce.
“That was the immediate solution. Now we’re working to stabilize the family,” said Kim Guadagno, the former lieutenant governor who is president and CEO of Fulfill.
Since the story went public, donations have come in for the family: six months’ worth of groceries, clothing, a car and more. The mother, a restaurant worker, has landed a new job washing dishes and has other job offers that Fulfill is helping her to explore.
“The outpouring of support for this one child has been fabulous,” Guadagno said.
This family is now well cared for, Guadagno said, but the girl is one of 400,000 children in New Jersey who is food insecure. In Monmouth and Ocean counties, there have been 92% and 64% increases in need, respectively, since last March.
Fulfill saw a 40% increase in demand. And there are probably even more people who need help, she said.
“If you’ve never been to a food bank, you don’t know where to start,” Guadagno said.
Almost half, or about 4 in 10 people, who have visited a food bank since the pandemic began last year had not received food assistance previously, according to Feeding America.
And the demand is expected to continue. “We’re looking at at least two to three years,” said Guadagno.
New Jersey has been particularly hard hit by food insecurity. It has risen by 56%, which is about 10% higher than the national rate. Currently, about 1.2 million people in New Jersey don’t know where their next meal will come from, said Nicole Williams, communications and public relations manager for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which serves 16 counties across the state.
“The service sector and hospitality industries have just been so hard hit and we have quite a lot of jobs in New Jersey in those sectors,” she said. “If you look at Atlantic City especially, it’s one of the hardest hit cities in the country. Those are the people who are most in danger of losing their jobs.”
Food insecurity among kids has increased by an estimated 75%, meaning about one in five kids in the state is food insecure. Even though schools are still handing out meals, not all children who need them may be able to get them.
“It might be hard for some people to make their way over there to pick them up, if the parents are working or don’t have transportation,” Williams said. “The increase in food insecurity among children has been really stark.”
Allison Pries may be reached at email@example.com.
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