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Arizona influencer helps local restaurants suffering during COVID-19 pandemic with 'Venmo Challenge'

Diana Brandt, better known as AZ Foodie, has been raising thousands of dollars to give back to people in the food business here in Arizona.

PHOENIX — Diana Brandt wasn't always known as the influencer AZ Foodie

She was a mom working miscellaneous jobs trying to find her passion. That passion turned into posting and blogging about restaurants around town.

"Over the last six and half years, I entered this cool community of people and so many amazing opportunities, so it's been really fun,” said Brandt.

And then her social media following grew with more than 125,000 followers, which has made her a familiar name in the Valley. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she saw the impact it had on the food business in Arizona and knew she had to help.

“The Venmo challenge was something that I had seen on TikTok," Brandt said. 

"Someone else in Nashville was doing it and it was huge, she was getting $20,000 a week to tip and it was incredible."

So incredible that Brandt decided to bring the challenge here to Arizona.

"I felt like, man, I have a platform such a solid community that loves our food industry that follows me, I could do something, even it was like $100 I was giving away or $500, it didn't matter. I knew people would probably want to participate in it," she said. 

And they did: The influencer received donations from the community and has tipped $15,000 in $1,000 increments to various restaurants and even to a DoorDash delivery driver in the Valley.

"It's a very emotional experience to be able to participate in and be that vessel for everyone that's tipping," Brandt said. 

"The Venmo challenge is great thing to keep going so they can a part of really doing something special in their community."

The tipping is randomly chosen. Brandt said she does not accept suggestions on who should receive the donations. 

If you would like to donate to the Venmo challenge and help our local food establishments, visit Brandt's Instagram for her Venmo information.