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Casino companies step up with food donations for victims of pandemic

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A pallet of food items is moved at Three Square Food Bank.

Tue, Mar 24, 2020 (2 a.m.)

As Las Vegas casinos sit empty during a 30-day statewide shutdown out of coronavirus concerns, resort companies have turned to philanthropic efforts, donating food that would have otherwise gone unused.

In just one example, MGM Resorts International has donated more than 300,000 pounds of food to Three Square Food Bank, which has more than 40 emergency food distribution sites around Las Vegas. That sum includes nonperishable food items from multiple MGM properties along the Strip, the company says.

To put into perspective, Three Square distributes about 50 million pounds of food — mainly donated items, federal commodities, purchased produce, and grocery rescue shipments — annually, according to its website.

“Last week, we were a tremendous benefactor, to the tune of 300 pallets of food from the hospitality industry. The volume of people increased dramatically at our drive-thru donation sites from Wednesday to Thursday and then from Thursday to Friday,” said Larry Scott, chief operating officer for the food bank.

MGM Resorts isn’t the only hospitality company helping out during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wynn Employee Foundation last week announced a commitment to donate $100,000 to Three Square to assist children and seniors who are food insecure during the pandemic. The money was made available through Wynn’s Community Grant fund, which receives matching company dollars for donations made by employees.

“I am so proud of our employees and the donations that they have selflessly made through the year,” Wynn CEO Matt Maddox said in a statement. "It is important in times like these that we give back to the community when it is needed the most.”

A Salvation Army Southern Nevada spokeswoman said Wynn has also sent it “thousands of dollars in fresh produce” in recent days. Donations like that are needed, a Salvation Army spokeswoman said, because as many as 450 people have been showing up daily for the organization’s sack lunch service, which runs from 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m.

Late last week, Caesars Entertainment properties in Las Vegas pooled to donate 116 pallets worth of perishable dairy, eggs and produce items to Three Square. Additional pallets of food, Caesars officials said, were donated to City Impact Center, Macedonia Outreach Social Enrichment Services, Las Vegas Rescue Mission, Henderson Parks and Recreation Emergency Operations Center, and Share Village (formerly known as Veterans Village).

Las Vegas Sands, the company that owns the Venetian Resort and Palazzo, donated $250,000 that will go to several local organizations, including Three Square, Communities in Schools, and Share Village.

The Venetian alone donated 60 pallets of food to Three Square in a separate charitable act.

Station Casinos — which has set up food donation areas at its Sunset Station, Boulder Station and Palace Station properties — has also partnered with local charities.

Boyd Gaming has donated more than 100 pallets of food — about a dozen truck loads — to Three Square in recent days. It is also assisting local hospitals by donating personal protective equipment like masks and gloves for use by health care professionals on the front lines of the epidemic.

Golden Entertainment, which owns the Strat, Arizona Charlie’s Decatur and Arizona Charlie’s Boulder, donated perishable food last week to Casa de Luz, which is headquartered in downtown Las Vegas.

As many in Southern Nevada find themselves out of work because of the tourism and gaming slowdown, donations are being coveted by struggling families, Scott said.

“Demand from the public is growing rapidly,” Scott said. “The good news is that we received some wonderful news from the hospitality industry on Thursday and, on Friday afternoon, that food was sitting in the refrigerators of approximately 20,000 families in Southern Nevada. That was a great story of receipt and distribution.”

Southern Nevada’s food problem isn’t likely to get any better in the coming days.

“Over the next couple of days, we think we’ll continue to receive more food from the hospitality industry,” Scott said. “At a certain point, that will begin to cease. At that point, if demand continues to be three and four times greater than it has been, we’ll need help from the community and funding sources because we’ll need to begin to purchase far more inventory than we have historically.”

For information on how to donate to the cause, volunteer time or to take advantage of the organization’s services, call 702-644-3663 or visit ThreeSquare.org.

 

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