The green-bag brigade is growing as the fledgling Medford Food Project continues to gain momentum and partners, organizers say.

The green-bag brigade is growing as the fledgling Medford Food Project continues to gain momentum and partners, organizers say.

An article in the Mail Tribune in December seeking volunteers for the project quickly garnered more than 25 community-minded Medford residents, who signed on to become coordinators for the neighborhood-based, door-to-door, food-collection system, said coordinator John Javna.

Now, just three weeks before their first food pick-up, the project has 74 neighborhood coordinators signed on to collect food from about 525 food donors, Javna said.

The numbers are already far past Javna's initial predictions, he said, adding that Jacksonville has asked to be included in the Medford project.

"They take the bags, go out, and find that they're bringing something valuable into their neighbors' lives," Javna said.

The Medford effort is building on the success of the Ashland Food Project, which started in June 2009. In that first year, 20 coordinators picked up 3,700 pounds of food from 330 Ashland households. Today, the project's food donors collectively contribute more than 100,000 pounds of food a year, fulfilling about 40 percent of the Ashland Emergency Food Bank's annual needs, Javna said.

"Ashland has broken 2,200 donors," which represents 23.3 percent of the town's households, Javna said. "Our goal is 2,350 by April, which will put us at 25 percent."

Philip Yates, director of nutritional programs for ACCESS, is also a coordinator for another offshoot — the Talent Food Project. Yates recently participated in the third meeting of 20 local food banks and/or distributors, including ACCESS, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Mark's Episcopal Church and Gospel Mission, who have created a formal collaboration to determine exactly what will happen to the food after it's collected, he said.

The Medford School District has offered space at the old South Medford High School to use as Medford's official headquarters and food drop-off site, Javna said.

The first pickup date for the Medford Food Project is Feb. 12, Javna said.

If you'd like to join the Medford Food Project, call 541-210-8288, he added.

— Sanne Specht