| Palm Beach Daily News
The coronavirus pandemic, now nearly a year old, has created widespread unemployment or underemployment for thousands of county residents while exponentially increasing the need for the services of the Palm Beach County Food Bank.
Now, a donation from a Palm Beach couple will help the food bank meet that still-growing need.
A $500,000 gift from Stephen and Christine Schwarzman pushed the Food Bank’s “Grow With Us” capital campaign to its $3 million goal.
The campaign’s end means that a new facility to double distribution is now fully funded. The Food Bank will be moving into its new home next month.
“Christine and I are honored to support the Palm Beach County Food Bank,” said Schwarzman, CEO and co-founder of The Blackstone Group and a perennial listee on The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s roster of most generous Americans.
“We want to help ensure that this new facility is fully operational as soon as possible,” he continued. “The COVID crisis has put a greater spotlight on the issue of food insecurity across the country, and I’m pleased that this gift will support local families in need.”
The campaign, under the leadership of co-chairwomen Debbie Pucillo and the Rev. Cecily Titcomb, launched its private phase in the spring of 2019 at a reception hosted by Pucillo, Titcomb and their spouses at the Pucillos’ home.
Private donations, grantmaking organizations and the public came together to inch closer to the target, and the Schwarzmans’ $500,000 — the largest single donation — put it over the top.
“We are exceedingly grateful for the Schwarzmans’ generosity,” said Jim Greco, interim CEO of the Palm Beach County Food Bank. “Their gift underscores the importance of donations from private individuals and organizations.”
The new warehouse space, Greco said, “doubles our capacity for distribution and will make it possible to meet our county’s increased need for food distribution due to the pandemic and into the future.”
Greco noted that “last year, we were offered resources for distribution which we couldn’t accept because we were limited by our existing infrastructure. This new warehouse space ensures we will be able to feed many more of our hungry neighbors.”
“In order to bring strength of scale and efficiency to serve our partners, and to provide access to the nutritious food our county needs, a larger space for our work was critical,” continued Greco. “We needed loading docks, a modern, state-of-the-art freezer/cooler, designated space for both incoming and outgoing food, easily accessible pick up for our partner agencies and a more efficient facility for employee and product safety. Steve and Christine’s gift allows us to move into our new building fully funded. We can seamlessly continue our very necessary work.
Historically, the Palm Beach County Food Bank provided access to nutritious food for more than 180,000 hungry Palm Beach County residents every month.
The onset COVID-19, however, disrupted the county’s economy and tripled the demand for its services.
“The pandemic has exposed just how easy it is for people to become food insecure,” Greco said. “Food is such a basic human need and often children are the most impacted. Imagine being just 6 years old and not knowing where your next meal will come from when you leave school on a Friday. Gifts like this restore dignity to families who never expected they would need the help of a food bank.”
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.
For more information, visit pbcfoodbank.org.