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Joyce Brown can tell you what 1,500 pounds of butternut squash looks like. 

She saw it firsthand Wednesday morning, 30 boxes brimming with the pale tan-orange gourds lined up in North Medford High School's cafeteria loading bay.

"This whole thing was full of squash," Brown said Wednesday morning. 

Brown and about 20 other volunteers and Sodexo employees spent much of the day preparing and cooking the vegetables, which will be frozen and donated to ACCESS for distribution to its food pantries. About 1,500 pounds were prepared in the school's cafeteria, then another team of volunteers prepared the remaining 1,000 pounds at ACCESS headquarters during the evening.

ACCESS will distribute the windfall through its 24 area food pantries. Each bag of prepared squash will come with two recipes to use during the holiday season. 

Philip Yates, ACCESS nutrition programs director, called it the Squash-A-Thon. 

"(It's) probably about 1,200 to 1,300 families that would benefit from that," Yates says. "It'll already be cooked. It'll be ready to go into pies or ready to go into a soup, or something like that."

Applegate seed growers Ben and Kristina Yohai of Wandering Fields Farm donated 2,500 pounds of squash, with a small favor to ask: Just return the seeds, please. Calls to Wandering Fields Farms were not immediately returned Wednesday. 

Workers cut the squash, scooped the seeds into plastic bags, baked the good stuff, then scooped it out into bags for freezing.

"It's good we can contribute," said Sodexo employee Debra Hausea. 

“We just feel strongly about being efficient with our local food," said Jeff Ashmun, Sodexo area general manager. "This gives us an opportunity to make that happen, particularly at this time of year, when we can help provide fresh produce from the Rogue Valley to local constituents who are really in need.”

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

Edel Neff helps to process 1,500 pounds of donated butternut squash Wednesday at North Medford High School. ACCESS will distribute the frozen, cooked squash to local families in time for Christmas. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
Wandering Fields Farm donated about 2,500 pounds of organic butternut squash to ACCESS. Volunteers cut it up and cooked it Wednesday in two marathon sessions at North Medford High School and ACCESS. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch