Construction is underway on a new food center that will provide improved nutrition for tens of thousands of children in the second-largest public school system in Massachusetts.
The Springfield Public School Department’s Culinary and Nutrition Center will be located in a 62,000-square foot former warehouse building on Cadwell Drive that is undergoing a major overhaul to accommodate a large commercial kitchen, bakery, and food storage.
Expected to open by the end of this year, the first-of-its-kind school food services center in the state, will support a school nutrition program that provides breakfast and lunch every school day to almost 30,000 students. It will also feed children on weekends and during the summer.
Superintendent of schools Dan Warwick said students who participate in the free meals programs do better with their studies, have fewer disciplinary problems, and are less likely to skip school.
" The research is very solid," said Warwick.
The new center will consolidate the Springfield schools’ food services operation at one site reducing expenses. It will also result in more scratch cooking and pave the way for expanding the breakfast-in-the-classroom program and the farm-to-table initiative, according to Tim Gray, the school department’s food service administrator.
"This will outfit us for the next twenty years," said Gray. " It is really going to make us much stronger as a food service."
The project comes with a total price tag of $21 million, which includes building acquisition, design, and equipment costs. The construction contract awarded to Fontaine Brothers of Springfield is for $10.6 million.
Funding for the project was put in place last year when the Springfield City Council approved a $7.5 million bond order. The council approved an initial $7 million for the project in 2016.
City Council President Orlando Ramos said the city’s investment will be paid back.
"This project is going to be reimbursed 100 percent by the school department," said Ramos. " (The city) is just fronting the money."
Mayor Domenic Sarno noted the new food services center will create 40 new jobs.
"It is not only exciting on the food service side, but it is also redeveloping a once vacant building," said Sarno.
The center will also serve as a classroom for culinary and food service training programs in the district’s schools.