limit mass layoffs and prevent bankruptcies. But that hasn’t shielded parents from the recession’s widening toll.

Co’p1/Solidarités Étudiantes, the food bank Ms. Chéreau visited, opened near the Bastille in October when six students from Paris Sorbonne University banded together after seeing more of their peers go hungry.

Aided by the Paris mayor’s office and the Red Cross, they negotiated donations from supermarkets and food companies like Danone. Now, 250 student volunteers organize pasta, cereal, baguettes, milk, soda, vegetables and sanitary items to give to 1,000 students a week — though the need is five times greater, said Ulysse Guttmann-Faure, a law student and a founder of the group. Students go online to reserve a place in the line.

“At first, it took three days for these slots to fill up,” he said. “Now, they’re booked in three hours.”

Food banks like these, run by student volunteers for other students, have become a rare bright spot for thousands who have been struggling silently to confront the psychological toll of living with the pandemic.

Thomas Naves, 23, a philosophy major on a scholarship at Nanterre University, said he felt abandoned and isolated taking online classes for months at a time in a tiny studio.

When his student jobs were cut, he began seeking out food banks that set up at his campus twice a week. There, he found not only desperately needed meals, but a way to escape loneliness and cope with his growing distress. His parents were both ill, and were themselves barely making ends meet.

Mr. Naves settled behind a small table in his student lodging one recent afternoon to eat a microwaved curry he had gotten from the campus food pantry. In his closet was a small stock of donated pasta and canned goods — enough to eat several more meals.

“Going to the food bank is the only option to feed myself,” he said.

“But meeting other students in my situation made me realize that we are all sharing this suffering together.”

Gaëlle Fournier contributed reporting.

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