Hunger Remains Big Concern For Children During Pandemic, Especially In The Classroom

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’s showing in the classroom. CBS2’s Christina Fan reports.

Video Transcript

KRISTINE JOHNSON: The hunger crisis continues to grow during the pandemic, our children of special concern.

MAURICE DUBOIS: In New Jersey alone, hundreds of thousands of kids are not getting enough to eat, and it is showing, and in one recent case, during virtual school instruction. CBS News' Christina Fan reports.

CHRISTINA FAN: At Fulfill's food distribution site in Neptune, New Jersey, workers hear and see heartbreaking stories of hunger every day. But a recent confession from a little girl stuck with CEO, Kim Guadagno.

KIM GUADAGNO: A teacher had just reported that a nine-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.

CHRISTINA FAN: It turns out the little girl's entire family was starving. Her mother told the school social worker that she's been out of a job since the pandemic hit last March. Statewide, food insecurity among children has increased 75% since then.

CARLOS RODRIGUEZ: That's 400,000 children, 1 in 5 in the entire state, that's at risk of not knowing or not having food.

CHRISTINA FAN: Carlos Rodriguez is the president of the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and says families often don't know where to seek help, or they're too ashamed. For immediate assistance, he recommends families find the nearest pantry by logging onto CFCNJ.org. Another program parents can apply for is called Pandemic EBT.

CARLOS RODRIGUEZ: So any child that was receiving free or reduced school meals can be eligible for this benefit.

CHRISTINA FAN: Back in Monmouth County, volunteers at Fulfill say the nine-year-old girl's family is now overwhelmed with community donations.

KIM GUADAGNO: Offers of jobs, offers of connecting people to jobs, offers of six months' worth of groceries for the family.

CHRISTINA FAN: They say in this time of national emergency, it's important to help each other, but more importantly, to not be afraid to ask for help. In Neptune, New Jersey, Kristina Fan, CBS 2 News.

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

KRISTINE JOHNSON: 1 in 5 children, that's startling.

MAURICE DUBOIS: Ah. Yeah.