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District Expands Central Kitchen, Looks to More Outside Business

Bozeman (MT) Schools looks to generate up to 30% of its revenues from external customers of its production facility.

Bozeman (MT) Public Schools has completed a $4.8 million expansion of its support services facility that includes a  near doubling of the food preparation area and will allow it to produce for outside customers in order to generate revenues to support the district meal program.

"We want to be someone's commissary," says Bozeman Schools FSD Bob Burrows. The central facility had already been serving some outside customers before the expansion, including Montana State University, a local pizza chain (for which it made sauce in bulk) and Food Services of America, a multi-state foodservice distributor for which the Bozeman facility prepared private label bulk products for distribution around Montana (sales and distribution to customers outside the state would require USDA inspection, a move the department is currently contemplating).

"We have excess capacity and idle equipment especially in the summer," Burrows says, "and we are diligent in finding ways to make ourselves as efficient and cost effective as possible for local taxpayers."

Before the expansion, the facility's outside business had generated 15%-18% of department revenues. The goal is around 30% with the new capacity, says Burrows.

The Bozeman central facility produces only components that can efficiently be made in bulk for outside customers. "We are small and responsive," Burrows boasts. "We can duplicate a recipe and tweak it quickly as needed."

He cites one example of a chowder recipe for which a local eatery was famous. They were having trouble replicating it in bulk as they expanded but the Bozeman facility was able to find a way to mass-produce the chowder with no degradation in either quality or the integrity of the original recipe.

The added space in the central facility is also expected to accommodate the Bozeman district's growth over the next 15 years, when up to three new elementary schools, a middle school and a second high school may be added. It will also allow the production of more from-scratch items, boosting meal quality for Bozeman students.

The new production facility was designed by H-C Design & Consulting based in Bozeman.

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