'Fighting childhood hunger': Local nonprofit organization plans to expand in Destin

Staff Reporter
The Destin Log
The former Pottery Barn location at 908 Airport Road could be the home to local nonprofit Food For Thought Outreach, Inc., if city leaders agree to a proposed lease.

A proposed lease is in place for the former Pottery Barn property at 908 Airport Road.

With a unanimous vote Monday night, city leaders gave local nonprofit Food for Thought Outreach, Inc. the thumbs up to occupy the property. The item must pass on second reading before the lease can be finalized.

"This is an amazing organization," Mayor Mel Ponder said. "Definitely a blessing for sure."

As part of the proposal, the city is responsible for "bringing the premises to a condition reasonably acceptable" to the organization whose mission is to remove the negative impacts of hunger, and empower a child to get the most out of their education and development by providing them weekly access to healthy, easy to prepare meals.

The Destin Rotary Club has agreed to help make improvements to the property up to $6,000.

Jeanne Dailey, president of the Destin club, told city leaders the rotary club's motto is "service above self."

"We're really excited about this project, and to support the city and Food for Thought," she said.

Food For Thought, according to its website, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization based in Santa Rosa Beach that provides backpacks filled with healthy, easy to prepare food for students who are dependent on free or reduced school meals.

Food For Thought has been working to fight child hunger since 2010, and currently serves 15 schools in Walton and Okaloosa Counties, providing backpacks for 1,200 students each week. Of the 15 schools served by the nonprofit, eight of them are from Okaloosa County.

"Currently, Food For Thought has a permanent facility located in Santa Rosa Beach that serves as our hub for services for our entire organization. While we have a small satellite pantry located in Destin, we have a serious need for a more functional long term location to support our services in Okaloosa County," Founder and Executive Director Tiffanie Nelson told The Log. "This location would provide us outstanding space to support our growing services, allow our volunteers to work and for the community to come to get to know our program and how we are fighting childhood hunger in this local area."

The proposed lease is for a period of three years, beginning March 15, 2016, and has options for the organization to renew the lease for additional years. Rent for the initial three-year term would be $800 monthly.

The property at 908 Airport Road, as well as a parcel at 112 Sibert Avenue, were put up for lease back in May. By leasing the properties, the city would be able to bring in additional revenue.

City leaders purchased the Airport Road property for $400,000 in 2014 as part of a settlement agreement with property owners who wanted to open a strip club.

Since then, the property has sat vacant, but improvements had been made in anticipation of leasing the property.

"I can't think of a better use for that building, considering what it was destined to be," Councilman Jim Foreman said.

The proposed lease will come before city leaders for second reading in November.

For more information on Food for Thought, see http://fftfl.org/.