By CBSNewYork Team

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Food pantries across the Tri-State Area saw the need grow exponentially in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic hit families in different ways.

CBS2’s Meg Baker visited some on Friday and found out the organizations think the demand will continue in 2021.

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At a COVID-style drive-up food pantry in Toms River, cars line up for basic needs and volunteers take what they call “crisis boxes” of food straight to their trunks.

“Tuna fish is always a big thing we always need. Pasta sauce, peanut butter, jelly,” said Deena Gifford, organizer for Shore Hands Food Pantry.

The small pantry serves 100 families a week. Others in the area serve 500-600 a week.

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Shore Hands Food Pantry and Thrift Store in Ocean County started after Superstorm Sandy, a time when many lost their belongings and homes. The pandemic has caused similar pain. For many, the weekly pickup also provides a human connection.

“Just to have somebody say, ‘Thank you. Let me pray for you. How are you doing today? What are you going through?'” organizer Jessica Mathus said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

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Rise NJ in the Mercer County town of Hightstown has seen an increased need of 300% since the start of the pandemic.

“Most of them are not working right now. So they might have enough money to pay their rent, but they don’t have enough money for food. So they’re making these difficult choices,” Rise NJ executive director Leslie Koppel said.

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Food pantries need more than just food donations. Diapers, cleaning products, and other basic needs are crucial.

“It’s making people’s lives bearable right now,” Koppel said.

They predict the need will only grow as we enter the new year.

Both pantries say support has grown alongside the need, especially when it comes to people cleaning out their closets and donating clothes. However, food is a constant need that has to be fulfilled weekly.

CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report

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