NEPTUNE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The coronavirus pandemic is causing a growing hunger crisis among children.

In New Jersey alone, hundreds of thousands of kids are not getting enough to eat, and it recently showed in a virtual classroom, CBS2’s Christina Fan reported Monday.

COVID VACCINE

At Fulfill’s food distribution site in Neptune, workers hear and see heartbreaking stories of hunger every day.

But a recent confession from a little girl child stuck with CEO Kim Guadagno.

“A teacher had just reported that a 9-year-old little girl had burst into tears in her classroom. Now remember, when I say classroom, these are virtual classrooms, in front of the whole class, saying she was starving to death and could we help.”

It turns out the little girl’s entire family was starving.

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Her mother told the school’s social worker that she has been out of work since the pandemic hit last March.

Food insecurity among children statewide has increased 75% since then.

“That’s 400,000 children or 1 in 5 in the entire state that is at risk of not having food,” said Carlos Rodriguez, the president of Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

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Rodriguez said families often don’t know where to seek help or are too ashamed.

For immediate assistance, he recommends families find the nearest pantry by logging on to cfbnj.org.

Families in Monmouth and Ocean counties can visit Fulfill’s website.

Another program parents can apply for is called Pandemic EBT.

“Any child that was receiving free or reduced school meals can be eligible for this benefit. It really does give parents more flexibility at home for their children,” Rodriguez said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Back in Monmouth County, volunteers at Fulfill said the 9-year-old girl’s family is now overwhelmed with community donations.

“Offers of jobs, offers of connecting people to jobs, offers of six months’ worth of groceries for the family,” Guadagno said.

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She said in this time of national emergency, it’s important to help each other, but more importantly to not be afraid to ask for help.

The New Jersey Department of Education says that schools participating in the school lunch and breakfast programs also have an obligation to offer meals to students during virtual instruction.

CBS2’s Christina Fan contributed to this report

CBSNewYork Team