With 22 days left for online voting, Dallas is trailing the leader in a Walmart-sponsored contest for food bank funding by more than 11,000 votes.
Walmart's "Fighting Hunger Together" program pits the nation's 100 metropolitan areas with the highest rates of food hardship against one another in a Facebook race to collect the most "like" clicks for Walmart. The community that produces the most Walmart fans will receive a $1 million grant for hunger relief efforts; five runner-up cities will receive $100,000 each.
Anti-hunger activists in Fresno, California, have persuaded 12,000 people to set aside their feelings about Walmart and click the "like" button, propelling the city to the top of the hungry city heap. Grand Rapids, Michigan, currently in second place, has barely half as many supporters. Only 11 listed cities have surpassed the 1,000-supporter mark.
"I don't care how people feel about Walmart," says Dayatra Latin, director of programs and development for Fresno's Community Food Bank. "You can hate Walmart all day long, but unless you're going to give me $1 million, you need to click that button."
Latin says the food bank's efforts to bump up its vote tally have been facilitated by the program's simplicity.
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"It's so easy," she says. "We're always asking for money, and in this case, we're not."
Food bank staffers have added links to their e-mail signatures, and asked all food bank volunteers to publicize the opportunity through their Facebook pages.
Although Fresno seems likely to win the coveted $1 million prize, Latin admits she does have some qualms about basing philanthropy on the results of popularity contests. She wonders if cities with more resources should have been excluded from the competition; it galls her that Buffalo-Niagara Falls, an area slightly more popular with tourists than Fresno, is sitting in fourth place, just behind San Antonio.
"I do think, San Antonio, OK, you guys have the Spurs," Latin says. "And, you know, the Cowboys need to give back, because they've made me lose a lot of money this season."