| Matt Conway
CHICOPEE – The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts remains on schedule with the development of their new $26.3 million headquarters in Chicopee. The 63,000-square-foot facility will operate on 25 Carew St. once it opens in September.
While currently operational in Hatfield, the Food Bank is developing a new headquarters location in wake of rising food insecurity rates. Factors driving the rising insecurity rates include the conclusion of coronavirus pandemic-based assistance programs and rising inflation figures.
The Hatfield location was deemed insufficient by the Food Bank for the increased need. A lack of storage space forced the food entity to turn away more than one million pounds of food donations over the last three and a half years. The food bank’s current location also possesses insufficient loading docks and persisting supply chain issues.
Moving to Chicopee grants the food bank a multitude of infrastructure and operation improvements, with the new property doubling the size of their current location. The added space will increase the storage capacity for dry and frozen goods, as well as allowing the business to expand through new employees. Location is also viewed as another benefit for the headquarters, as its proximity to Interstate 91 allows for faster inbound and outbound food deliveries.
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts purchased the vacant property in December 2020 near the Chicopee River Business Park. The project then started its capital campaign program in January 2021.
Funding for the new headquarters derives from several sources, including federal and state grants, individual gifts, federal New Market Tax Credit investments and corporate gifts. Some of the major financial contributions include a $9.5 million tax-exempt bond awarded in April 2022 and a $1.62 million MassWorks Infrastructure Program grant in February 2022.
Elected officials, such as Mayor John Vieau and Congressman Richard Neal, celebrated the groundbreaking for the Food Bank’s new headquarters on June 2, 2022. Both viewed the developing location as an integral component in combating food insecurity.
“We are excited to add the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to our list of the wonderful things we host in the city of Chicopee. It’s something I am really proud of … We’re going to have a state-of-the-art facility here that is going to be second to none,” said Vieau during the June 2, 2022, ceremony.
“Hunger is still a very stubborn problem in America. For a country that has been blessed with such great opportunity, housing and food ought to be minimal obligations that we see ourselves embracing. This is a national problem, it needs a national solution,” said Neal during the June 2, 2022, ceremony.
Food Bank update
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts Executive Director Andrew Morehouse spoke to Reminder Publishing about updates to the headquarters’ construction. He shared that the project remains on track.
“It’s on track, we’re very excited. The current general contractor and all the subcontractors are closing up the outer shell of the building now and finishing pouring the cement foundation and floors,” said Morehouse.
Morehouse said it was critical to complete the exterior work so the construction team would be able to continue work during the winter. He expects construction for the Food Bank to be completed by the summer of 2023 before the organization moves in full-time in September 2023.
Morehouse stressed that the project’s development would have been impossible without the wide net of support it received.
“Without the support of the state and federal governments, the private sector, many businesses and many generous individuals who’ve given all different amounts, we wouldn’t have been able to complete this project,” said Morehouse.
Once completed, Morehouse aspires for the new headquarters to extend the Food Bank’s mission of combating food insecurity.
“We’re going to continue to partner with everyone who wants to support our mission to feed our neighbors in need and lead the community to end hunger,” said Morehouse.
Along with the developing headquarters, Morehouse also celebrated the success of Monte’s March in 2022. The annual fundraising march conducted by radio personality Monte Belmonte surpassed its goal of $500,000 with a total of $538,000.
Morehouse said the funding support is critical to The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The total raised will equate to over 2,152,000 meals that will be distributed throughout Western Massachusetts.
“It went phenomenally. I am so overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people, individuals and businesses that came out to support what we believe is a really important cause – ensuring that everyone has a right to healthful food regardless of their circumstances,” said Morehouse.
Readers can learn more about the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts at https://www.foodbankwma.org/.