LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — The Palm Beach County Food Bank is expanding its "Food for Kids" program, providing weekend meals for students and families.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner were on hand for the announcement Thursday morning at the food bank's new Lake Worth Beach facility.
The expansion of the program is thanks to a $1.6 million gift from part-time Palm Beach residents Stephen and Christine Schwarzman. Stephen Schwarzman is chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm.
"We're now able to do even more to close the gaps on food insecurity," DeSantis said, praising the Schwarzmans for their donation.
Stephen Schwarzman said he and his wife have spent much of the past year in Palm Beach because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"My wife and I watch the local news each night in Palm Beach," he said. "I was stunned to see the huge lines of people waiting for the food necessary to sustain them. We decided we needed to do something to help."
Jamie Kendall is the CEO of the Palm Beach County Food Bank. Kendall said ever since the pandemic began, the need of meals among families in the county has tremendously increased.
"They were out of work or their hours have been cut," Kendall said. "So we really saw the need escalate, and especially for children."
There will be bags that children who need food assistance take home on the weekends. Currently, the program is at 12 schools and after-school sites. The goal is to have the program in all schools in Palm Beach County, but it will cost $3 million to do it.
"The children of Palm Beach County are going to be the recipients of that generous, generous gift," Kendall said.
In addition to the $1.6 million gift, the Schwarzmans also contributed $500,000 to help complete the food bank's new warehouse and distribution center.
The food bank hopes to reach its $3 million goal by December.