NORWALK, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — A nonprofit feeding hungry kids in one of the richest counties in America is facing many challenges linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Demand is high, supplies are tight, and donations are down, but the determination to serve those in need is stronger than ever, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported Tuesday.

“It has been overwhelmingly helpful and a relief to parents that they know they can feed their kids on the weekends when they don’t have the food,” said Shawnee Knight, co-founder of Filling in the Blanks.

The assembly line is busier than ever at the Norwalk-based organization, which provides meals for kids facing food insecurity.

“We rotate around, so some of them will have a pound of pasta and sauce,” Knight said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Knight and Tina Kramer started the charity seven years ago, growing from rental space in a vacant house to a 5,000 square-foot warehouse.

“Nope. We never thought we would be running the equivalent of Costco, and knowing supply chain and distribution, absolutely not,” Kramer said.

And they never imagined a pandemic would increase demand by 50% overnight.

“There’s many people that are finding themselves in unexpected situations right now and there’s no shame in getting a little help,” Knight added.

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Filling in the Blanks anticipated delivering its 1 millionth meal some time in 2021. But due to the demand driven by the pandemic, that landmark has been pushed up to the week of Sept. 14.

“People are having to chose whether to leave the lights on or put food on the table,” Kramer said.

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With schools closed, meals are now distributed at grab-and-go sites like one in Norwalk.

“You can’t expect them to achieve to their greatest potential when they’re hungry and can’t feel properly nourished,” Mayor Harry Rilling said.

“They’re so grateful. I can’t tell you how grateful they are,” distribution coordinator Betty Moorer added.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Back at the warehouse, “Our funding is from events which we have had to cancel,” Knight said.

The cost of food is up and donations are lagging demand, but every week they manage to fill bags with food, and deliver them with love.

While fundraising is a struggle, the co-founders said a bright spot has been a steady stream of people looking to volunteer their time. You can find out more about Filling in the Blanks by clicking here.

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