Palm Beach Daily News Drive Brings in 2,215 Pounds of Food

By William Kelly – Daily News Staff Writer

The need is always there, but so are people who care.

During April, Palm Beach residents gave more than a ton of non-perishable food – 2,215 pounds, to be exact – and $1,500 to help feed families struggling to get by.

The sixth annual Empty Your Pantry Food Drive concluded Friday. The Palm Beach Daily NewsPalm Beach Fire-Rescue and Town of Palm Beach United Way launched the effort on April 2. Drop-off points were set up at the Daily News office, the town’s three fire stations, and at the United Way office at the Palm Beach Towers.

“Once again, the people of Palm Beach have opened their hearts and pocketbooks to help struggling families all over Palm Beach County,” Daily News publisher Timothy D. Burke said. “We thank you for your generosity.”

This year’s recipients are the Farmworker Coordinating Council and Feeding South Florida, two organizations that distribute food to low-income families in Palm Beach County.

The Farmworker Coordinating Council assists more than 2,000 migrant or seasonal farm workers and hundreds of low-income families to reduce their risk of becoming homeless and suffering from hunger. Feeding South Florida’s warehouse in Boynton Beach feeds nearly 200,000 food-insecure residents in the county, including 60,340 children.

Living and working in Palm Beach, it’s easy to forget that one in seven people in Palm Beach County don’t have access to enough food for an active, healthy life, said Jay Boodheshwar, board chairman at the Town of Palm Beach United Way.

“We are beyond grateful to the Palm Beach community for their generous donations to the Empty Your Pantry Food Drive,” Boodheshwar said. “We believe no child should go to bed hungry, and no parent should have to worry about where to find the next meal for their family.”

The Fire-Rescue Department collected 1,500 pounds of the food in this year’s drive, Public Information Officer Sean Baker said. “Walking through [the north fire station], it was standing room only,” Baker said. “We actually had to relocate all the food from the main room and put it in the back room, it was so difficult get around.”

 Claudomis Michaud collects donated food items for Feeding South Florida at the Palm Beach Daily News on April 27, 2018 in photo

Carlos M. Perez, director of programs for the Farmworker Coordinating Council, said it distributes food to about 600 families each month from its offices in Lake Worth and Belle Glade. It also provides emergency rental assistance for those facing eviction from their homes.

A farmworker in Florida earns about $7,000 a year, Perez said. “By the time they pay their rent and utilities, there’s not much left. [This food drive] makes a great difference. All the food is essential. It is a basic necessity.”

Sari M. Vatske, executive vice president of Feeding South Florida, said her organization’s share of donations will provide 5,400 meals.

“This comes at a critical time, as families go into the summer triple threat of providing additional day care and additional meals for children no longer in school, and the cost of maintaining a home and air conditioning goes up,” she said.

Feeding South Florida serves families at or below the poverty line, including working families, single parents and older adults. Each year, the organization receives 46 million pounds of donated food, valued at about $70 million, and distributes it on an operating budget of $6.5 million, Vatske said.

“For every dollar donated to us we can provide six meals, through economies of scale,” she said.

Last year, the Empty Your Pantry drive collected about 1,600 pounds of food and $1,500 in donations for the Palm Beach County Food Bank and CROS Ministries. The previous year, the drive collected 2,000 pounds of food and a record $12,000.

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