Stacy Winters is the founder and creator of the Omaha Food Lovers Facebook Group (OFL), which in just three years, has grown to more than 86,000 members.
Omaha Food Lovers typically receives approximately 120 posts per day, with 11 moderators reviewing content daily. According to Stacy, moderating the group has been key to its success. “If you allow people to post and say whatever they want without repercussion, it simply won’t grow. You can’t control everything but overall, the group is very positive, and people are very friendly.”
Stacy works hard to keep content fresh, informing the public on food events, new restaurant openings, or a great meal he recently enjoyed. He believes the reason it’s grown so quickly is because of the group’s interaction and shared love of food. “People see posts of different meals and it makes them want to try new restaurants in Omaha. And it helps local restaurants, too.”
During the height of the pandemic, Stacy wanted to do something to help struggling restaurants and create goodwill across the Omaha metro. “I just got this idea during the pandemic…we’ve got all these people and we should do something positive for the community.”
He thought partnering with the Food Bank was a great way to connect this food-loving group to neighbors who don’t have consistent access to food. Stacy took the fundraiser a step further by utilizing his partnerships with local restaurants. “I literally Facebook messaged over 100 restaurants asking them to participate by donating a gift card. I wanted to give people an incentive to donate.” This grew to over 200 restaurants by year two!
Over the past two years, their fundraiser has helped the Food Bank provide over 611,000 meals. Not only has it made a significant impact on neighbors in need, but on OFL members as well:
“Been waiting for this all year. Love the whole concept.”
“My family used the Open Door Mission produce boxes when we were on tough times, and we were SO grateful for them. Thank you to all who are willing and able to donate.”
“This is amazing. I love when social media is used for good.”
Their next fundraiser kicks off on December 1. OFL currently holds the title for the largest Virtual Funds Drive in the Food Bank’s history. In 2021, the group raised more than $104,000, providing more than 416,000 meals for neighbors in need across Nebraska and western Iowa.
Regardless of this year’s outcome, Stacy says he’s beyond proud of what the group has accomplished together. “Whether it’s helping the Food Bank, or local restaurants stay in business, it’s cool to see that sort of support. What we’ve created is just a machine at this point. It just keeps churning forward and growing.”
The Food Bank is extremely grateful to Stacy Winters and the Omaha Food Lovers for their commitment in the fight against hunger.