Philanthropist Lois Pope recently declared “no child should ever go hungry, here in Palm Beach County or anywhere in this country,” in response to the food-insecurity crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Manalapan resident followed up this declaration by donating $1 million to the Palm Beach County Food Bank to help support those in need during the coronavirus crisis.
“Children need food. They need proper nutrition to learn and thrive,” Pope said in a statement. “But now, during this coronavirus pandemic, when they are not in school, they are especially at risk of going hungry.”
Palm Beach County is the 10th largest school district in the country and has more than 60 percent of school-age children eligible for free or reduced-priced meals. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Lantana-based food bank was already providing meals to more than 3,000 children at 45 sites during the summer and on weekends.
Along with helping feed underprivileged children, the Palm Beach County Food Bank provides nutritious food for more than 100,000 residents in the area every month. With the significant increase of people temporarily losing work, the food bank’s typical and annual amount of 5 million pounds of food is seemingly not enough for the crisis at hand.
Karen Erren, executive director of the Palm Beach County Food Bank, acknowledged due to the pandemic the supplies of donated foods from local establishments have begun to dwindle. Erren said 50 of the Palm Beach County’s 125 food pantry partners have had to cease operations because of the lack of inventory.
“The bottom line is our phones are ringing off the hook with calls from families who are in desperate need of food, especially for their children,” Erren said in a statement. “Mrs. Pope’s historic gift is the perfect answer to these calls. It is transformational. But the need is so great that I encourage others to come alongside her because hunger relief requires the efforts of all of us.”
Pope’s donation will also help expand the Palm Beach County Food Banks’s Food4OurKids initiative, which a year-round weekend and summer feeding program that helps children during difficult times.
Before the pandemic, the Food4OurKids program was already providing the means for hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged Florida children to enjoy a summer camp experience.
“I feel a responsibility to make this new contribution to the Palm Beach County Food Bank,” Pope said. “I think all of us living here with the financial means have an obligation to help mitigate the current situation our county’s schoolchildren are facing. So I invite others, in fact, I urge others, to join me in this vitally important, essential effort.”