READINGTON — The problem of hunger in New Jersey is usually magnified in the summertime, when children lose access to school meals during the day. But this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has tightened families' wallets even further.

Calling on pre-existing partnerships with local food banks, including several in New Jersey, Whitehouse Station-based QuickChek is asking its customers to give a little extra at its 161 area stores in a coin drive that runs through Aug. 7.

"Many families are in need of food and other resources that the food banks provide, so we really wanted to just try and find a quick way that we could do some fundraising, get some money into the food banks," Heather Stillman, QuickChek community involvement coordinator, said.

QuickChek's corporate volunteer program routinely collaborates with other Garden State organizations like the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Fulfill NJ, and America's Grow-a-Row, three of the groups the coin drive will benefit.

"It was a natural fit," Stillman said. "We have great partnerships with all of those food banks, so we just wanted to reach out and find a way to support them earlier than we normally do."

Stillman made the point that food banks are more than just pantries; they also need ways to procure and provide fresh food, and the coin drive will hopefully give them more flexibility to do that.

Last Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy, state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, and Senate President Steve Sweeney jointly announced the direction of $20 million in federal CARES Act funds to six New Jersey food banks, with half of that money coming by August and the remainder by the end of the year.

For more on QuickChek's current and future community programs, visit quickchek.com.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.