A documentary titled “The Green Bag Solution” on the Ashland Food Project is in its pre-production phase with a goal to spread the word about the organization on a national level. The Ashland Food Project, founded by locals John Javna, Paul Giancarlo and Steve Russo has been so successful that 50 communities in the United States and Canada have adopted the model. In 2015 Russo decided to create a documentary.
“There’s so many people in this country who are hungry and this was the simplest idea to help those who need food,” said Russo. “I figured if we could make a documentary that’s really well made and really inspirational, then we might be able to get more communities across the country to actually do this.”
The Ashland Food Project, founded in 2009, is a community-driven food drive. Every neighborhood in Ashland participates. Volunteers sign up to receive a green bag. For every trip to the store, participants buy an extra non-perishable item for the bag. On the first Saturday of even-numbered months (February, April, etc.) a neighborhood coordinator picks up the bag and leaves an empty one. The filled bags are then delivered to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank on Clover Lane.
The Ashland Food Project is meant to provide a simple solution to hunger in the area that can be accomplished during the course of community member’s daily lives. Approximately 2,800 Ashland households participate in the project, according to Gregg Gassman, co-producer of the film.
The documentary is currently in the funding phase. A teaser of the documentary, along with an explanation of the program and a link to donate funds, can be found at www.kickstarter.com/projects/469474133/the-green-bag-solution. The goal for the Kickstarter campaign is to raise $5,000 by Sunday, July 10. As of Tuesday afternoon, $1,545 has been pledged for the documentary. Kickstarter requires the entire $5,000 goal be reached in order for the Ashland Food Project to receive any of the money.
Members of the production crew have written to the Sundance Film Festival and the Safeway Inc. supermarket company for grants to fund the film. The overall goal for the film is between $15,000 and $25,000, according to Russo, all of which will come from donations, not through fundraising events — just as food donations to the program all come directly from participants, not through cash donations used to buy food. The Food Project is run completely by volunteers — even the producers for the documentary are volunteers and are working for free.
“We don’t have to rely on the government or corporations,” said Gassman. “Answers can be found by building community within community.”
The documentary will focus on individuals from the community — both the hungry and those who help them. It will feature the simplicity of the project through stories of the hungry in the community, volunteers for the Food Project and Food Bank, all with a goal to inspire other communities to consider a similar model, according to Russo.
“The genesis of the food project is unique,” said Gassman. “One of the messages we want to get across is that any community that has problems … the solution can be found in the community.”
The hoped-for timeline — assuming funds are raised and all goes well — calls for finishing filming by June; editing a rough cut by July; having a focus group viewing in late July; completing post-production by August; and releasing the final cut in September. Submission to selected film festivals would occur in the fall. The film will be about 18 minutes long.
Laney D’Aquino, staff videographer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, is directing the film. Producers are Gassman, Ron Mogel and Food Project co-founder Russo.
“It would really be great if we could get this backed by the community where it actually started,” said Russo.
Every eight weeks the Ashland Food Project donates between 25,000 and 30,000 pounds of food to the Food Bank, according to Russo.
“Walking down the streets of Ashland, it is difficult to imagine hunger is an issue,” producers wrote in one of their grant requests. “It is not just the homeless or displaced who are hungry.”
The Ashland Emergency Food Bank feeds between 500 and 600 families a month, according to Pam Marsh, director of the Food Bank. Three-quarters of people who use the Food Bank are housed and 25 percent within that number are children, according to Marsh.
Javna has recently established the Neighborhood Food Project. This program is dedicated to helping other communities adopt the model, or to create their own. Apart from Ashland, there are Food Projects in Talent, Medford, Eagle Point, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls and Portland in Oregon alone. The website www.neighborhoodfoodproject.com gives information on starting a food project, including how to get donors and how to record the amount of donated food.
“I think the simplicity of it all will be the most appealing thing to other communities,” said Russo. “You can individualize your project based on your community. It doesn’t have to be exactly like what we do in Ashland.”
Email Tidings intern Caitlin Fowlkes at firstname.lastname@example.org.