Fighting Hunger Online Through Pop Culture

Greater Chicago Food DepositoryWith the holiday season nearly upon us, many are looking to help those who are less fortunate. Agencies like the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the Northern Illinois Food Bank are working to help fight hunger....and both agencies have created unique methods of engaging people's help in fighting hunger through pop culture.

As part of its overall "No 1 Should go Hungry" campaign, the Greater Chicago Food Depository has revamped its current website, and has created a "social donation plate". Users can create their own unique collection plates with unique fundraising goals, and then distribute them via social media. (Some great examples - with many Chicago notables - include the Chicago Blackhawks and radio station WXRT). By doing this, the Food Depository is hoping to empower people to help in their overall goal: to collect 1 million pounds of healthy, nonperishable food for Chicago residents. (For those wishing to donate food items, collection barrels are present in various locations, including City Hall, the Merchandise Mart, and over 100 other downtown buildings). In the fight against hunger, any effort to engage a diverse audience to take action is worthwhile.

One of the Food Depository's parallel agencies is the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which services residents of DuPage county. I was fortunate enough to work with them as part of Chicago TARDIS, a yearly Doctor Who-themed convention held on Thanksgiving weekend. (Note: when I'm not blogging for Chicago Now, I also organize the Chicago Doctor Who Meetup, and was part of an elite group of fans polled by BBC America on the show's 50th anniversary. Plus, I've blogged previously about other pop culture and social good efforts).

Chicago TARDIS (which had almost 3,000 attendees in celebration of the British IMAG0090show's 50th anniversary) held a silent auction throughout the weekend, as well as a one-off live memorabilia auction. (Attendees who brought and donated non-perishable food items were given a special ribbon). With approximately 2,000 attendees that weekend, Chicago TARDIS managed to raise over $2,900 to benefit the Northern Illinois Food Bank. (Live auction items which sold successfully included a vintage 1980s-era Tardis 21 - Spirit of Light poster for nearly $600, a collection of near-mint condition Target novelizations for about $150, and other rare and hard-to-find items).

Aside from the obvious reasons, why are these efforts important? At a time when funding sources are increasingly diminishing, and when social enterprises are becoming a much stronger presence in driving social good, non-profits need to adopt more flexible, strategic methods of gaining resources that does not involve the word "Kickstarter". Thinking more proactively by building upon existing support networks (whether online social or specific interest) is a more strategic - and sustainable - option for many non-profits, allowing them to foster a stronger presence around their mission.

So during - and after - this holiday season, please consider supporting the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Northern Illinois Food Bank. (Doctor Who fans can also begin planning for next year's convention)

As always, thanks for reading - please feel free to make comments below, or contact me directly (more information can be found via the About page).

Have a merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a wonderful holiday season!

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