Grantee Spotlight: Palm Beach County Food Bank

Food Bank

On their 10th anniversary, we take a look at the Palm Beach County Food Bank and how Lost Tree Foundation’s support has helped this successful agency grow and thrive.

In 2010, local stakeholders and funders began convening as a team to discuss the issue of food insecurity and hunger in Palm Beach County. Food insecurity describes a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Often, for working families, just one “bad month” can be enough to push a household into a precarious financial situation. Losing a job, getting an unexpected car repair bill, or having an accident or medical diagnosis can all suddenly force a family to choose between buying food or paying essential bills. All across America, families are faced with circumstances that can result in food insecurity and hunger. Palm Beach County is clearly not exempt.

By 2012, armed with accurate data on the state of the County, those same community stakeholders worked together to fund the creation of the Palm Beach County Food Bank. Lost Tree Foundation was one of the first seed funders and, as a community, we have watched the Food Bank grow from strength to strength. The organization now receives and distributes vast amounts of food, much of which would have gone to waste, efficiently through a network of partner agencies throughout Palm Beach County.

The food they distribute reaches nearly 200,000 hungry residents. The logistics of this operation are complex and time-sensitive. Over the years, Lost Tree Foundation has funded warehouse facility components, including a new racking system in 2021 which allows for greater storage capacity and the more streamlined movement of large palettes of food.

During our first round of grantmaking this season, Mr. Steve Kirmse and Mrs. Deedee Forbes’ Site Visiting Team reviewed a proposal for a 26-foot refrigerated truck that will help the Food Bank procure, pick up, and distribute food throughout its 200-agency partner network, including schools’ backpack lunch programs, soup kitchens, pantries and shelters. The grant was unanimously approved, and the new truck will replace an old one that is scheduled for retirement. “What has been so remarkable and rewarding about working with the Food Bank is seeing their growth, both in terms of capacity but also in the efficiency of their collection and distribution network,” explains Mr. Kirmse. “At one time, many of their partner agencies would come to their facility to pick up the food they needed. As the agency grew, that no longer worked effectively and now the Food Bank distributes their food using an online ordering system and a fleet a trucks. The truck we have funded most recently is critical to enhancing the Food Bank’s logistical capability, since it has tripled its distribution over the past 3 years, enabling it to meet a greater portion of the increased needs of the County.”

When it first started, the Palm Beach County Food Bank distributed about 1 million pounds of food; during the 2020-21 fiscal year, it distributed more than 17 million pounds of food, worth more than $29,580,000. CEO Jamie Kendall puts the record year into perspective. “The need has always been immense, but the COVID-19 pandemic skyrocketed food insecurity issues. I always say that we’re working hard to put ourselves out of business,” she jokes. “Since we’d love to have everybody in the County well-fed and healthy, but that’s not going to be a reality any time soon. We have to ensure our neighbors, especially our children and seniors, are not going to bed hungry.”

At Lost Tree Foundation’s Annual Meeting held on February 10, 2022, the Foundation’s President, Mr. Woody Collins, spoke about Lost Tree Foundation’s lengthy commitment to the Food Bank. “We were at the table from the start, acknowledging the hunger needs, especially among families with young children and the elderly in the County. We partnered with the Food Bank very early on and, at each stage of their growth, we have partnered with other local foundations and organizations to provide the necessary funding which enabled the Food Bank to scale their organization and mission.”

Since funding hunger-relief efforts (along with health, homelessness, and education) is one of the Foundation’s cornerstone priorities, our continued support of the Food Bank is both strategic in terms of its effectiveness and strongly aligned with our mission. The Palm Beach Food Bank provides 80% of the food needed to feed the hungry in our County, making them the perfect partner to leverage our dollars and ensure we continue to help those who need us most.

2022 marks not only the Food Bank’s 10th anniversary but also Lost Tree Foundation’s $1 million milestone in funding their efforts. Our extensive contribution has not gone unnoticed. “As we celebrate our 10th anniversary,” explains Kendall, “I can tell you that we absolutely would not be here today without Lost Tree.”