The Palm Beach County food bank is on its way to expanding a program offering free food over the weekend for elementary school students in need.
Jim Greco, vice chair of the Palm Beach County food bank, thanked philanthropists Steve and Christine Schwarzman Thursday for a $1.6 million seed donation aimed at helping court additional donors to help make that program permanent.
“The ‘Food 4 Kids’ program is designed to help children who receive free school meals by providing them with food to bring home for the weekend,” Greco explained.
“This seed gift positions us well on our way to meeting our $3 million fundraising goal to ensure the program is in every Palm Beach County elementary school, and that it has sustainability to serve as a safety net for years to come.”
Steve Schwarzman serves as chairman and CEO of The Blackstone Group, a private equity firm.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner and others were also on hand Thursday to commemorate the major influx of cash, particularly in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I want to thank the Schwarzmans for being involved in the community,” DeSantis said, noting the New York-based couple has spent much of the pandemic in South Florida.
“Palm Beach is the 10th-largest school district in the country, and a majority of the school-aged children are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. And as we saw across the country, when the pandemic hit, the demand for food services here and elsewhere went up dramatically.”
The $1.6 million donation comes on top of an earlier $500,000 contribution from the Schwarzmans earlier this year. That $500,000 went toward a new food storage facility in Lake Worth Beach. Thursday’s news conference took place in that facility.
Schwarzman said he first reached out to the food bank after seeing reports of long food lines during the pandemic. Those conversations led to the original $500,000 donation. As the Schwarzmans searched for additional ways to contribute, they landed on the new $1.6 million donation to fund the weekend food program.
“Thank you again to the food bank team for your vision and dedication, and to the Governor and Mayor for recognizing the impact the new facility and this program can have in our community,” Schwarzman said Thursday.
DeSantis pointed out that Florida’s economy has performed fairly well during the pandemic, thanks in part to his push to keep businesses open following the early stages of the outbreak. Still, DeSantis acknowledged Thursday that parts of the state are still suffering.
“Yes, there is more opportunity here than in many other states. And it’s great to celebrate when good things are happening. But you can’t lose sight of the fact that there’s still a lot of people in need,” the Governor said.
“Through the generosity of the Schwarzmans, the many grocery and neighborhood partners, and other contributors to the food bank, we’re now able to do even more to close the gaps on food insecurity.”