Social media campaign hopes to fill food bank shelves

Local students harness the power of social media to inspire donations and awareness

  • Nov. 28, 2014 8:00 a.m.

(Left to right) Carolina Silva

Jennifer FEINBERG and Alex BUTLER

People enjoy posting pics of their food on social media.

What if a community campaign to fight hunger made it even more meaningful?

UFV Global Development students Cydney Myers, Kara Hanson and Carolina Silva launched a charity challenge around this very question to encourage food bank donations.

The challenge went live Nov. 17 with the hashtag #sharemynextmeal, said Myers. The goal is to raise community involvement and hunger awareness in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission  and beyond.

The students, who take a Global Development Studies class at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, were assigned the task of designing a campaign with a more local focus.

“Our Global Development Studies class focuses on development issues around the world but our professor, Cherie Enns, asked us to create a campaign that focuses on poverty within our own communities,” said Myers.

Myers said they originally decided to work with the Abbotsford Food Bank, meeting with co-ordinator Dave Murray to discuss it, but as they put the campaign together, they realized social media would give the challenge the ability to spread even further.

This is how it works: Once tagged and challenged, participants post a photo of their next meal, with the hashtag #sharemynextmeal on Twitter or Facebook page. They mention which community food bank they plan to “share” their meal with, by donating cash or non-peris

hables and tagging three friends they wish to challenge.

Hanson said they hope it results in more donations to all food banks, “because they are all struggling right now.”

Myers is from Chilliwack, Hanson lives in Aldergrove and Silva is from Mission. But already their challenge has reached across the country to Ontario and into the U.S. in Colorado and Texas.

Abbotsford’s food bank is currently in dire need of donations leading up into the busy holiday season, and many other communities are facing the same issue.

The team saw an opportunity to harness the considerable power of social media to encourage people to help the community that they live in.

Best of all, they could do it without a budget.

“The idea was just to come up with a campaign and because we had no overhead costs we just ran with it,” said Hanson.

“We take snapshots of our meals using our iPhones and post the photos on social media sites accessed by our brand-new computers, but not many of us take the time to consider that there are people going hungry right here in our own communities,” said Myers.

It doesn’t matter if people take photographs of restaurant plates, or homemade meals, as long as they tag, share and donate.

“It is really a social experiment. I don’t know where it will lead,” Myers said.

Silva said they are starting to see people catch on and she has even challenged family in Portugal. Hanson added that social media can help spread the word more quickly and without borders.

Myers said people who can’t donate themselves can still encourage others, adding that people don’t need to wait to be challenged to participate.

“Be part of a social movement, be a part of a community and initiate a challenge yourself.”

Information on the campaign can be found at facebook.com/sharemynextmeal or on Twitter @sharemynextmeal.

Above photo: UFV student Cydney Myers and fellow Global Development students have created the hashtag #ShareMyNextMeal.

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