It was mid-December when a teacher noticed the girl fidgeting during class, wrote Carly Baldwin in a Patch story. “She could not seem to sit still or pay attention. The teacher told her to focus, and the girl abruptly started crying. Her cries turned to sobs; she could not stop crying on the Zoom call.
“That was when the girl made a stunning confession, in front of her whole virtual class: She was starving. There wasn’t enough food in her home and she was really, really hungry.”
That same day, a social worker from the girl’s school contacted the headquarters of Fulfill, a food bank that serves Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Guadagno, who is president and CEO, “said her team is used to hearing sad stories, but this particular incident ‘broke our hearts. Every single one of our team members sprang into action that day.’”
The social worker drove to Fulfill to pick up emergency food boxes. In addition to paying local restaurants to deliver hot meals to the family, Fulfill has been helping the girl’s mother to qualify for food stamps and find employment.
“Pre-pandemic, we worked with teachers to identify the hungry children. In 2019, we had 1,000 kids enrolled in our Backpack Program,” said Guadagno. “Then the pandemic came. I asked my staff to try and find the kids anyway. By September (2020), we had only hit 300. I said, ‘Oh my God, this means we’re missing 700 kids. That’s 700 kids who are not getting enough food.’”
“The hardest part of all of this is asking for help,” Guadagno said. “We are desperate to reach families such as this so we can get them the services they need, so they don’t get this far down the road in a crisis.”