This Simple Hashtag Became A Worldwide Movement To Feed The Homeless

Social media gets a bad rap sometimes. But while it can cause a headache (or, you know, suck all your time away as you look through pictures of your ex’s new squeeze), it can also spread messages of hope, connect people, and spark movements for change. It’s all about what you bring to it. For LA-based #HashtagLunchbag, an organization that delivers brown-bagged lunches to the homeless, a simple hashtag on social media was the catalyst that started it all. And they’ve kept that philosophy, because it only takes one small act to grow into something meaningful.

“Our mission is really to incrementally affect the way people think about their role in the world,” co-founder Ajay Relan tells Uproxx, “We always say, from a ripple to a wave.”

In 2012, they were just a few friends making some meals (about a hundred or so which they put in brown paperbags) to hand out to the homeless in Venice Beach on Christmas. While doing so, they put up some pictures and (jokingly) tagged them as #hashtaglunchbag. To their surprise, people got really into it. The hashtag took off, and what was a single event with people trying to do some good exploded into a movement. Friends and strangers were asking to join in on future events. And around the country, others were handing out meals and tagging #hashtaglunchbag. Relan and cofounder JD McCelroy credit the hashtag’s popularity with people actively searching for ways to connect more.

“The food is merely a vessel, we’re just creating this connection,” Relan says. “And presenting people this opportunity to feed other people.”

They now have offshoots in over 100 cities around the world. But while the organization has become bigger, the mission is still simple. The brownbag lunches are usually just a sandwich and chips — basic stuff. But they become more than that because of the feelings they’re imbued with. Relan and McCelroy tell volunteers to make the sandwiches as if they’re making a meal for someone they love, to tuck a note of encouragement or greeting in, and decorate the bag. Like they said, it’s a vessel of connection — one that says, I see you, I care.

To learn more about #hashtaglunchbag watch the video above and then pass it on.