OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Members of the Facebook group, Omaha Food Lovers are paying it forward amid the pandemic.
Stacy Winters loves food. So much so, he and others started the group Omaha Food Lovers. Members share reviews and make recommendations for area restaurants and bars and have a big impact on businesses struggling during the pandemic.
When we first reported on the group a few months ago, it had 16,000 followers. Now, the group has nearly 48,000 participants.
"We've tripled in size in the last 10 months or so, which is incredible growth,” said Winters.
It’s a space to create free publicity for good food and businesses who could use more business during the pandemic.
"It's kind of like a plea for help when you see restaurants that are knowingly struggling,” said Winters. “People will post that in the group and say, ’Hey, I was just there and I was there for 30 minutes and I was the only person there.’ You see people rallying around that and going to support them."
For many in the group, friendships have been made. Pounds may have been gained, but for others it’s made a difference for their business. Cunningham’s Pub and Grill is a business that has benefited due to the group.
During the holidays, Winters wanted to do something to help businesses and others move forward. So he joined a virtual fundraiser for the Foodbank of the Heartland.
"What better charity for a food group than a food bank,” said Winters.
The goal was for the foodies to raise or donate $25,000 to the organization. Members worked with local business — many of which were also struggling
"It was great advertising for those people too,” said Winters. “Every day, I would mention those places in our posts within the group, so they got some recognition for what they were doing. That's not why they were doing it, but it was a win-win."
In the end, 135 restaurants were involved — donating a total of 380 prizes to donors. One-thousand-three-hundred-fifty members of Omaha Food Lovers also donated. The total raised by all donors amounted to $67,000 in just three weeks and even more thanks to Conagra’s Shed the Light on Hunger campaign which matched the money raised, dollar for dollar.
“Our $67,000 had an impact of $134,000,” said Winters. "It was just a simple idea and it just snowballed. People loved seeing the daily updates and the dollar amount increase. It really was very heartwarming."