Like 70 percent of the people who showed up at Crossroads Community Services one day last week, Mr. Lacy had never been there before. But when the coronavirus pandemic drove the economy off a cliff, Mr. Lacy, 27 and a father of two, lost his warehouse job and saw his hours at 7-Eleven slashed.

“I’ve never had to actually do this,” Mr. Lacy said, after a gloved pantry worker hefted a box of food into the trunk of the car he was riding in along with two neighbors. “But I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do for my kids.”

By the hundreds of thousands, Americans are asking for help for the first time in their lives, from nail technicians in Los Angeles to airport workers in Fort Lauderdale, from bartenders in Phoenix to former reality show contestants in Minnesota. Biting back shame, and wondering guiltily about others in more dire straits, they are applying for unemployment, turning to GoFundMe, asking for money on Instagram, quietly accepting handouts from equally strapped co-workers, and showing up in unprecedented numbers at food banks, which in turn are struggling to meet soaring demand as volunteers, many of them retirees, stay home for safety.