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Editorial: Better recipe

What’s cooking with the Greenfield High School project has the potential to leave a bad taste in the community’s mouth.

The building committee is wrestling with what to do with food service operations when the kitchen at the existing high school has to shut down during construction. An alternative space for preparing breakfast and lunch — roughly half of what’s needed on a daily basis — is being sought for the first part of 2015. It’s expected that the new high school kitchen will be ready for the new school year later.

It’s a temporary situation and yet school officials want there to be no disruption of the food service since they provide free or discounted breakfasts and lunches to more than 1,000 students or more than 50 percent of the enrolled population.

We have no issues with this desire. The problem here, however, is with the answer the building committee apparently has been leaning toward — revamping storage space next to the kitchen at the Greenfield Middle School. Earlier this year, the committee apparently examined a couple of sites before determining that the middle school idea was the most cost effective, with a price tag of roughly $140,000 to come out of the contingency budget.

One can argue that the $140,000 is small potatoes in a $66 million project. But we think there’s a better solution here than spending $140,000 for a temporary kitchen. Once the new high school facility is ready to go, this revamped space would essentially return to what it is now — storage, albeit with improved plumbing and electrical service.

We think — and others agree — that a better option may rest with the Franklin County Community Development Corporation’s Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center on Wells Street. We’re surprised to learn that the processing center and its fully equipped commercial kitchen wasn’t part of the consultants’ tour of potential sites. Even realizing that there would be plenty of details to work out, this could work and perhaps save some money.

At a recent Greenfield School Committee meeting, Project Manager Jim Byrne told the committee, “If you have another alternative, we won’t move forward ...”

The Food Processing Center is an answer the school district should explore.

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