It was a desperate cry for help from a 9-year-old New Jersey girl in a virtual classroom: She was hungry and hurting, one of the many experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic that has only made the hunger crisis worse.
Soon after, the young girl's teacher reached out to the Fulfill food bank of Monmouth and Ocean counties, which has been able to to provide and overwhelming response thanks to the wave of donations coming in from thousands of strangers.
"Just imagine being that child, not being able to focus on school work because all you know and feel is pain in your stomach from being hungry, its heartbreaking," said Linda Kellner, Director of Development & External Relations at Fulfill.
The volunteers at the food bank responded the way they do every day: Gathering food and personal care items to deliver to that third-grader and her family, who are just one of the 70,000 people in this part of the Jersey Shore who don’t have to do enough to eat.
Fulfill added that little girl‘s family to the long list of people who receive hot meals seven days a week now. They also helped the kids get clothes and boots, with many more able to be helped thanks to the generosity of the people who heard her heart-wrenching story.
"Her bravery has not only helped her mom and her brother and sister, it's helped an entire community," Kellner said.
The demand for food and goods is so high that Fulfill, which normally supplies food banks and community groups, has opened its doors every Friday afternoon to hand out crisis boxes of non-perishable food, fresh produce and frozen meats to whoever needs them.
"Demand has increased by 40 percent since the pandemic began, so she really is the face of hunger and has allowed us to get the word out in a way that is bringing in so much support to help that many more people in need," said Kellner.
Tammy Piscopo said she drove 45 minutes in order to get some things to help provide for her family.
"Some pantries are once a month, and you need more than once a month, it doesn't fulfill a family of four. It's hard," said Piscopo. "This has been a blessing because you got these angels in disguise fulfilling the needs of what we're going through with COVID."
"The Bible says a little child shall lead them and it's from the mouth of a babe that now opens up peoples eyes to realize that hey, this thing is still going on," said Antonio Johnson. "We need help and have to continue to band together, and take care of them first cause they are the future."
There is currently about 1.4 milion pounds of food in Fulfill's warehouse right now — but the volunteers know it goes out as quickly as it comes in. Those who are interested in making a donation, they can visit Fulfill's website.