The John Merck Fund has awarded a $45,000 grant to the Wellspring Collaborative, an economic development project in Springfield co-directed by Fred Rose, lecturer at the Center for Public Policy and Administration (CPPA).
The one-year grant will support research and planning for a large-scale production greenhouse in Springfield that will grow and sell food to local anchor institutions such as hospitals and schools.
“Institutional food purchasers are seeking local produce in response to a number of pressures, which is creating an unmet demand for year-round greenhouse production,” said Rose. “Health care professionals, educators and members of the public are all paying closer attention these days to nutrition, recognizing that our eating habits are a critical element in addressing epidemic levels of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.”
The proposed greenhouse aims not only to improve nutritional options at Springfield-area hospitals and other institutions, though. It will also be a cooperatively owned for-profit business that will provide job training and employment to city residents.
Wellspring is modeled on the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland and the Mondragón Corporation in Spain. These organizations draw on the purchasing power of their area’s largest employers and anchor institutions to provide a market for new, worker-owned companies. The Wellspring Collaborative currently comprises 22 anchor institutions, community groups and development partners, including Baystate Health, Sisters of Providence Health System, Mass Mutual, UMass Amherst, Western New England University and Springfield Technical Community College.