The South Kitsap Helpline food bank and nursery are in full bloom heading into the summer season.
The food bank, which helps roughly 4,000 people a month in Port Orchard, is kept afloat with the profits of the nursery business, executive director Jennifer Hardison said.
But it’s still a challenge getting the word out, she said.
“People often think we are only open to clients,” Hardison said of the expanding garden. “They think we only grow stuff to give away, but the nursery is our way of having a profitable way to get revenue and help the agency.”
The nursery, which spans a large garden area and several greenhouses at 1012 Mitchell Ave., is open for everyone in the community to shop for flowers, herbs, and other seeds and plants, to grow in one’s own garden, not just those served by the food bank.
Along with working its green thumb, Helpline is coordinating two food drives in the coming weeks. The first, which begins May 7, is the “Stuff the Bus” food drive put on by South Kitsap Transit.
For the seventh year, school buses will be lined up at both Albertsons stores in Port Orchard for people to drop off donated food items.
“Food drives that happen right before the summer are really critical to the agency,” Hardison said.
During summer, kids don’t have access to free meals like they do during the school year. Although several sites still offer those services, it’s still challenging to provide for the increase in mouths to feed, she said.
“On the other hand, we don’t get as many donations during the summer either,” Hardison said. “These drives help a lot.”
The second upcoming drive is the annual “Postal Food Drive” sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers.
“People are asked to put food next to their mailboxes for letter carriers to pick up,” Hardison said.
“This is a big drive, and we usually do pretty well.”
Hardison said the food bank relies on these drives during the summer.
Along with helping 4,000 people per month, South Kitsap Helpline went through more than one million pounds of food last year alone.
Which is one reason why taking part in these drives is so important.
“It’s amazing, we get a lot of help and donations during the holidays, it’s a wonderful community, but we see people those other 10 months as well. And people still need to eat,” Hardison said.
Although donating is the easiest, best way to get involved, there are also volunteer opportunities available on their website (www.skhelpline.org).
“People get down on the ideas of food banks, and there’s a misconception about who we serve,” Hardison said.
“The majority we serve are working adults right here in the community. They’re friends, neighbors, bus drivers, everybody. People find themselves in need at different times.”
For more information and to find ways to get involved, visit www.skhelpline.org.