PALM BEACH COUNTY FOOD BANK TO EXPAND WEEKEND “FOOD 4 KIDS” PROGRAM WITH $1.6 MILLION DONATION FROM STEPHEN AND CHRISTINE SCHWARZMAN Governor Ron DeSantis Helps Announce Gift, Tours Newly Completed Warehouse
(Lake Worth Beach, Fla.) – During a press conference led by Gov. Ron DeSantis today, the Palm Beach County Food Bank announced it will expand its “Food For Kids” program providing weekend meals for Palm Beach County School students and their families thanks to a $1.6 million gift from part-time Palm Beach residents Stephen and Christine Schwarzman. The Schwarzman’s gift alone will provide at least 1.5 million meals to students and their families over two years. Palm Beach County operates the 10th largest school district in the U.S., with more than 60 percent of school-age children eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The Food for Kids program is designed to help these students and their families fill nutritional gaps when they leave the classroom for the weekend.
This gift is in addition to a recent $500,000 donation from the Schwarzmans to close out the Food Bank’s capital campaign which doubled the capacity of its warehouse and distribution center. Gov. DeSantis, along with other local VIPs, toured the newly completed Food Bank facility.
“We’ve seen firsthand the incredible impact of the Palm Beach County Food Bank and are pleased to help expand this important program for schoolchildren and their families,” said Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO and Co-founder of Blackstone. “I believe that education is the passport to a better life, and I would not be where I am today without my own public school education. But students can only experience these benefits if basic needs like access to nutritional meals are met.”
This expanded weekend food program builds on the Food Bank’s current Lois’ Food 4 Kids program, already in place at more than a dozen schools across Palm Beach County. Philanthropist Lois Pope donated $1 million in April 2020 to support the initiative that was renamed in recognition of her generosity. This new gift will expand the program to more schools in a graduated process. If the Food Bank’s full $3 million fundraising goal is met, it will make it possible to provide meals in every elementary school in the county.
“This incredibly generous seed gift positions us well on our way to meet our $3 million fundraising goal to ensure the program is in every Palm Beach County Title 1 school and that it has sustainability to serve as a safety net for years to come,” said James Greco, Vice Chair of the Palm Beach County Food Bank. “We are grateful to Stephen and Christine for their generosity, and we hope other members of our community are able to support our efforts so we can provide this service to every student in need. This gift highlights the impact that private donations can have on charitable organizations, especially during a time of tight government budgets.”
“COVID-19 has impacted families in Palm Beach County in numerous ways, and the need for food assistance is now greater than ever before.” said Jamie Kendall, CEO of the Food Bank. Children are often the most impacted from food insecurity. For some of them, the breakfast and lunch they receive at school may be the only meals they are eating each day. Weekends are especially hard without access to enough food and thousands of children go to bed hungry.” “We have analyzed the schools with the most urgent need and will start ramping up the program in these schools first. We call upon the community to grow the Schwarzman’s seed gift to help us sustain this program and meet our goal of $3.0 million.”
“We know that hungry children have a more difficult time learning and reaching their full potential, and for that reason the District created the Hunger Relief Collaboration Team (HRCT),” said Allison Monbleau, Director School Food Service Department. "These efforts truly support the District’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) culture and we thank those organizations such as the Palm Beach County Food Bank who provide these much-needed programs.”
Palm Beach County Food Bank provided access to nutritious food for more than 200,000 hungry Palm Beach County residents. Since COVID-19 disrupted the county’s economy, the demand for the Food Bank’s services has tripled. While pre-COVID 19 distributions averaged close to 5 million pounds per year, the Food Bank is now distributing close to 1.5 million pounds of food per month.
The Palm Beach County Food Bank procures food from grocery stores, farmers, food distributors, wholesalers and other sources and provides it to almost 200 local community partners, including food pantries, soup kitchens and residential housing programs. Palm Beach County Food Bank programs reach families, school children and seniors, and connect those in need to available benefits and resources, including culturally appropriate food and necessities like paper towels and diapers. This process ensures families have access to food when they need it most. For more information or to donate to the Palm Beach County Food Bank, pbcfoodbank.org/ways-to-give.