Helpline's nursery deal a win-win proposition

It sounds as though there’s a lot to like and very little not to like in South Kitsap Helpline’s plan to purchase the former Port Orchard Nursery and relocate its operations to the facility next spring.

First and foremost, the site’s nearly three acres of greenhouse and growing spaces would allow the agency to raise its own fresh produce, which would make it possible to supplement the food bank’s current limited menu offerings with nutritious fruits and vegetables. And since feeding the area’s hungry is Helpline’s raison d’etre, anything that puts more and better food on local plates is obviously a positive thing.

Even better, the new location creates the opportunity for Helpline volunteers to teach classes on nutrition and agriculture, and it will enable the agency to employ a philosophy by which customers can obtain more if they accept healthy food instead of less-nutritious fare like macaroni and cheese.

And anything that teaches someone to fish rather than simply handing him or her a fish is a win-win outcome in our book.

Happily, too, the down payment on Helpline’s new home is coming via private donors — a $300,000 grant from the Seattle Foundation.

Helpline officials expect to generate another third of the $900,000 purchase price through a capital fundraising campaign, with the final portion to come from federal and state grants for which the agency will be qualified by virtue of all the innovative new programs it plans to offer.

The last part makes us a bit nervous, since there’s a fundamental difference between an organization actually becoming more self-sufficient and simply shifting a percentage of its funding obligations to the taxpayer.

On the other hand, if public money is only used to purchase the site rather than subsidize its operations once up and running, that’s an investment well worth making.

To the extent the new arrangement makes more and better food available, teaches and encourages positive behavior to food bank clients and lessens the agency’s dependence on local donors and tax dollars, it sounds like a wonderful concept.

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