New Technology | Neighborhood Food Project

The Neighborhood Food Project (NFP) was created in Ashland, OR in 2009 to help the Ashland Emergency Food Bank (AEFB) cope with increased demand during the recession. Their idea was so new and innovative, the AEFB board initially voted not to work with them. But NFP persisted, and when volunteers going door to door brought the AEFB 3,300 pounds of food on its first day, the board changed its mind. Today, the NFP supplies 36% of the AEFB’s food, and the NFP system has become a standard for emergency food collection in Southern Oregon and beyond.

The system is simple. Volunteers called Neighborhood Coordinators (NCs) canvass their neighborhoods and sign up people to be regular food donors. Each is given a reusable green bag, which they fill with nonperishable food. On the second Saturday of each even month, NCs collect the bag, replace it with another, and take the food to their local food pantry. It’s that simple.

In 10 years, NFP quietly became Jackson County’s largest ever, all volunteer, nonprofit organization. Today they have more than 7,400 volunteers consistently donating time and collecting green bags every other month; supplying 21 food pantries with more than 70,000 pounds of high-quality food.

One of the keys to NFP’s success is NOS, a process management system designed by two of its volunteers. Neighborhood Food Project has never had a physical site for storing records or staff to keep track of information flow. Rather, they have a decentralized management model, with each food project managing its own food donor lists, routes, and other information. The NOS software replaced the need for a brick and mortar, centralized location.

NOS is a map-based system with discrete information for its volunteers. Remarkably, it makes it possible to manage thousands of volunteers without staff. While NOS was an amazing resource, it has limitations; one of which is its inability to work on mobile devices. In 2018, NFP began working with a software developer to update NOS to NOS 2.0; improving access and functionality.

When NFP approached the Cheney Foundation to help with this upgrade, we quickly recognized its unique and extraordinary benefits. The development and testing phases are soon ending. NFP expects to roll out the finished project in early 2021. Their vision to create a replicable model for other communities to emulate has also materialized with 17 other food projects using the system across the U.S. From their innovative beginnings, NFP has collected over 2.5 million pounds in Jackson County, one green bag at a time. Remarkable!

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