New Bedford’s school lunch program is about to get a major upgrade with the creation of a new central kitchen to better serve students across the city.

In his weekly appearance on WBSM, Mayor Jon Mitchell discussed the New Bedford School Department’s plan to build a new central kitchen to bring hot meals to students at city schools that don’t have the means to prepare them in-house.

“As people know, we have lots of older school buildings, especially elementary school buildings that date back over 100 years, and a lot of them don’t have their own kitchens,” Mitchell said.

Right now, the schools are provided meals that are prepared in the City of New Bedford’s School Administration Building – the former New Bedford High School – which Mitchell said “isn’t really set up for a big distribution service.”

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He said that in a year-long process, the school department sought out a new location from which it could distribute food to schools without a kitchen.

Ultimately, the property selected was the former storage facility for Moby Dick Marine Specialties located at 449 North Street, behind Rite Aid and Barry’s Liquors.

“It’s been vacant for a long time,” Mitchell said. “It’s a yellow brick building that goes back to the 1920s. It’s actually a very attractive building and it’s got a lot of parking spaces.”

Mitchell also discussed the funding mechanism for the new kitchen.

“The City will own it, and it will lease it to the school department,” he said. “The school department gets funds every year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for school lunch programs. It has a pretty healthy funding stream from the federal government that it can use to pay, among other things, the lease payments to the City, so that the City can pay off the bonds that it issued to purchase the building.”

“It’s a long way of saying it’s all going to work out, and at the end of the day, the City’s not spending any extra money to do all that,” he said.

Mitchell praised the work of Assistant Superintendent of Finance & Operations in putting together the financing for the project, and also praised the New Bedford City Council for approving it.

“It will result in better food for the kids – parents out there know there’s some need for improvement on that end – and it’ll make things more efficient and in the long run will save the taxpayers more dollars,” he said.

See How School Cafeteria Meals Have Changed Over the Past 100 Years

Using government and news reports, Stacker has traced the history of cafeteria meals from their inception to the present day, with data from news and government reports. Read on to see how various legal acts, food trends, and budget cuts have changed what kids are getting on their trays.

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