In the spring of 2010, a small group of volunteers gathered in the Jacksonville public library to hear about a new door-to-door food collection program, called The Ashland Food Project. It had already been successful in Ashland and Talent, and the people who gathered in the library wanted to start a similar program in the Jacksonville, Oregon area.
The Food Project, they learned, was built around 2 kinds of volunteers: “Neighborhood Coordinators” and “Food Donors.”
Neighborhood Coordinators (NC) are the key to the system. Each NC agrees to organize a small group of neighbors to become Food Donors. Generally, this involves knocking on their doors and asking if they want to participate. When a person says, “yes,” the Neighborhood Coordinator gives them a reusable Green Bag and suggests they buy one extra nonperishable food item when they go to the supermarket each week. Donors store the food in the bag, and then every two months — on the second Saturday of every even month in Feb, April, June, August, October and December — the Neighborhood Coordinator goes to their house, picks up the bag and leaves a new bag. The full bags are taken to a central drop-off point, where local food banks receive it. Then the whole process starts all over again.
That was a little over two years ago. Today, Jacksonville is a key part of the Medford Food Project. More than 20% of the households in town have signed up as donors, and there are 22 Neighborhood Coordinators. Overall the 5 Food Projects in the Rogue Valley collect nearly 50,000 lbs. of food from about 5,000 families every two months! This is especially important because many food pantries in the Rogue Valley are low on food, and there are an estimated 30,000+ residents of the county who need it, including many kids.
“It has been an amazing experience to be part of this wonderful program,” says Jerrine Rowley, a local coordinator. “It feels great to help…and collecting food from my neighbors is fun and rewarding — but it’s also surprisingly easy. Being a Neighborhood Coordinator only takes a few hours a month, at most. I love it!”
It turns out, Rowley says, “that the Food Project is more than a way to supply food. It’s also a great way to get to know your neighbors. Many of us wish we did, but don’t know how to do it. So by giving people a reason to meet and talk to their neighbors, the Food Project helps provide a wonderful opportunity to build connections between people, and strengthen the community.”
The Medford Food Project has grown to 2,400 Food Donors and 140 Neighborhood Coordinators in just a year and a half. Now they’re ready to expand again, and they’re eager for you to join — either as a donor, or (even better, they say) as a Neighborhood Coordinator.
On Saturday, October 6th, they’re hosting a training session for new Neighborhood Coordinators at St. Mark’s Church in Medford, located at 426 W. 6th St. If you’re interested to learn more about volunteering for the Food Project, you’re invited to attend from 1:30 to 3 pm. Refreshments will be served, and kids are welcome. “A lot of families join the Food Project as a group,” explains Jacksonville coordinator Faye Haynes. “They appreciate having a community activity they can collaborate on. The kids can learn about the value of helping and see that they can really make a difference in the world, while the families spend quality time together. ”
If you want to sign up as a Food Donor or Neighborhood Coordinator, or would like more information, check out the MFP website at MedfordFoodProject.com, contact Jerrine Rowley at 541-702-2223 or Faye Haynes at 541-324-1298, or leave a message at 541-210-8288.