A 9-year-old girl living in the Jersey Shore area recently made a heartbreaking confession during her virtual class.
After a teacher saw the third-grade student crying during their Zoom class, the girl revealed that she was “starving” and that her mom had lost her job.
Fulfill, a New Jersey-based local food bank, received a call from a social worker from the school district, who explained that the girl had trouble concentrating in her class and started crying “uncontrollably.”
“When asked what was wrong, she confessed in front of her entire class that she was starving. It’s just all so heart-wrenching and frankly, very very courageous of this little girl,” Linda Kellner, the director of external affairs for Fulfill, said.
They learned that the girl’s mother had lost her job at a local restaurant when the coronavirus pandemic started. This means their entire family—including her brother and sister—haven’t had enough food to eat for a long time.
Fulfill immediately took action and provided the family with food, personal care items, and grocery store gift cards. The local food bank also helped the mom sign up for food stamps and healthcare for her children while still providing hot meals for them seven days a week.
Luckily, they were able to find her a new job as a dishwasher. Fulfill is also helping her explore other employment opportunities that will provide a longer-term solution.
Since their heartbreaking story swept the local area, Fulfill has had tons of job offers for her. Kellner said they are “looking to stabilize the family with the resources they need.”
It also helped that the story went viral because the tremendous amount of support from thousands of donors has helped them purchase some new winter clothes and footwear for the kids.
Fulfill was also able to help more families using these donations.
Since the start of the pandemic a year ago, the local food bank has seen a 40% rise in food demand. It is so high that apart from supplying to food banks and community groups, they have had to open their doors every Friday afternoon to distribute crisis boxes of non-perishable food, fresh produce, and frozen meats to those who need them.
Kellner said they are now serving 215,000 people in Jersey Shore alone, including 70,000 children.
“It’s definitely on the rise and we don’t see this going away anytime soon,” she said. “The Jersey Shore is so dependent on the restaurant and hospitality industry … that we think it’s going to be quite a while before we recover.”
The U.S Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies also reported in July that the rate of child food insufficiency was on the rise. It grew from a national average of 17.4% of American households during June 4-9 to 19.9% by July 16-21.
Karla Bardinas, a spokesperson for Fulfill, said there are many other kids in the same position as this young girl.
“It’s tremendous how this story has touched so many people. I think it’s just the thought of how this little girl … how desperate she would have to be to say that in front of her classmates,” she said.
As for Kellner, it’s stories like this that motivate her to show up for work every day and do better.
“Think of being this 9-year-old little girl so consumed by hunger that you can’t think about reading, math or writing,” she said. “All you’re thinking about is that pain in your stomach. That really is what keeps me up at night.”
Fulfill has about 1.4 million pounds of food in its warehouse right now. But supplies go at as quickly as they come in. If you are interested in donating to this organization’s cause, you can visit Fulfill’s website.