In any other time of disaster Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida would be asking for community support through donations of time, food and funds. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is not a typical disaster. The virus forced the food bank to limit the number of volunteers per shift to maintain social distancing. Food donations also had to be put in quarantine to ensure the safety of the food supply.
When businesses and schools began to shut down, the number of people seeking food assistance grew daily. The images of car lines wrapping around buildings and down city streets were broadcast on local media were staggering and surreal. Many individuals, corporations, former food bank volunteers and other groups refused to sit idly by while their neighbors were scared, desperate and hungry.
“We were trying to figure out a way to make an impact and to help our community during this crisis. Everyone on our Team immediately expressed that Second Harvest would be our choice,“ said Kristen Cooper from David Weekley Homes.
The Orlando division has contributed to the food bank through volunteerism, financial support and food drives in the past. This time they took their efforts online with a virtual food drive. Like a traditional food drive, but without all the person-to-person contact, a virtual food drive is a way for a group to rally together and help support the mission of fighting hunger and feeding hope, especially if they can’t physically be together in the same place.
“A virtual food drive is a representational web-based tool that allows individuals and organizations to hold an online food drive,” explains Betsy Dye, Digital Fundraising and Media Manager at Second Harvest. “Central Florida is a caring and kind community that generally wants to help, we just provided a fun platform for them to leverage.”
Since March, more than 270 individuals and groups have started a virtual food drive, including people like Sheila Mulholland. “I know a lot of people and families that you have helped, and I can’t wait to work with you on this and to give back,” she said.
It only takes a few keystrokes and mouse clicks to set up a virtual food drive. Each drive has a unique web address so that it can easily be shared with friends, family or co-workers, and on social media. For every dollar raised on a virtual food drive, Second Harvest can provide four meals for a child, family or senior in need. The funds raised help to distribute food through a network of 550 non-profits, churches, food pantries, shelters and other programs across six Central Florida counties.
Virtual food drives have been a great way for co-workers to work together on a project while maintaining social distancing. Some companies have provided a matching gift to encourage their employees or customers to engage.
“We decided to encourage fundraising efforts by creating a friendly competition amongst groups within our organization. We encouraged team members to share the links with family, friends and on social media,” Kristen explained. “We were pleasantly surprised to meet our fundraising goal within the first day, so we have increased it….three times already!”
Individuals have been incredibly creative with their incentives, including one teen who offered to shave his head if his friends chipped in to reach his goal. James Bautista, a high school student, surpassed his $6,000 goal and shaved his head on live television. “With how times are right now, it’s more important than ever to help the food bank distribute the food,” he said.
Church groups, alumni clubs and other organizations are also using virtual food drives as a way to stay connected to each other and the community.
“I am amazed and thrilled how generous people have been, even at a time when many of our own members are hurting. I’m sure it is because they know what a good job you all do at Second Harvest,” shared Steph Garber of First Unitarian Church of Orlando. “I live by the words, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’”
Help feed furloughed workers, families, kids and seniors with a virtual food drive.
Every dollar raised can provide 4 meals.