Virtual Food Drive Uses Twitter, Social Media to Secure Two Tons of Food Donations

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A writer from San Diego uses Twitter and other social media outlets to spread the word about the Virtual Food Drive, which seeks to collect two tons of pledges from around the country.

Some people are prompted to give for the holidays when they hear the familiar bell of the Salvation Army volunteers parked outside grocery stores and malls. But Beth Ziesenis hopes people will pitch in when they hear a little "tweet."

Using social media outlets such as Twitter, LinkedIn and her blog (, Ziesenis put the word out about her "virtual food drive." She said people from all over the country are pledging to donate at least 10 pounds (one bag) of nonperishable groceries to their local food banks.

"When the word got out on Twitter, I had hundreds of visitors to the food drive homepage within two hours," she said.

Twitter is a "microblogging" phenomenon that allows users to send 140-character updates to their Twitter community. Ziesenis, who owns Avenue Z Writing Solutions in San Diego, said her message about the Avenue Z Virtual Food Drive was frequently "retweeted," allowing the word to spread. In the first 48 hours, Ziesenis counted a total of 48 bags pledged, almost a quarter the way to her goal.

"I'm trying to get people who wouldn't ordinarily make an effort. They get too busy or just don't think about donating. But most people really enjoy pitching in if they are asked. It makes us all feel good."

Her original goal was to virtually collect one ton (2,000 pounds, or 200 bags), but a single donation of one ton from Dr. Alan Greene ( inspired her to increase her goal, she said.

"Less than a week into the drive, we're on our way to 4,000 pounds of donations," Ziesenis said. "And I bet more than 50,000 people have seen the link. At this rate, I may shoot for three tons."

Mark Long from Texas pledged to donate to Caritas Food Pantry in Waco. He wrote, "We should have done this before but haven't. Thanks for providing the impetus to get us to do this!"

In San Diego, Ziesenis and her friends are organizing a neighborhood drive, and she's received commitments from a couple of people who are holding drives in their offices or schools.

"My sister is giving extra credit to her students in Denver when they bring in cans for the school food drive," Ziesenis said, "and one woman wrote to say her company was inspired to hold one themselves."

Because of the nature of social media and the lightening-fast response rate on the Internet, Ziesenis said the word is still spreading rapidly. The donations she collects in San Diego will go to the San Diego Food Bank, but Ziesenis said food banks around the country will benefit from the momentum of the Virtual Food Drive.

"We've received commitments to donate to, the Union Rescue Mission in L.A., the Food Bank of the Rockies - all over the country. I'd love to see pledges of donations from every state. Instead of asking why you should do it, I ask, 'What reasons do you have for not doing it?'"

To participate in the Avenue Z Virtual Food Drive, Ziesenis advises, "Give where you live, then leave acomment to be counted." ( Ziesenis added that offers an easy way to donate cash online, as well as a directory of food banks by zip code.

For more information:
Beth Ziesenis on Twitter
Avenue Z Virtual Food Drive Homepage


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