#HashtagLunchbag is an online and offline giving movement that is filling the stomachs and souls of people around the world.
What started as a fun way for a group of friends to give back during the holidays in 2012 has flourished into a global phenomenon that empowers everyone to give back and have fun with their own #HashtagLunchbag events.
Below is a Q&A with the Co-Founder of #HashtagLunchbag, Ajay Relan
The #HashtagLunchbag movement has seen enormous growth in the past couple of years with over 100 cities around the world hosting events for the cause. What led to the formation of the original concept and why do you think it has been so universally successful?
The whole thing was sort of a happy accident.
We were looking for a way to volunteer on Christmas Day and waited until the last minute to find an opportunity. After several unsuccessful search attempts, we decided to go to our local grocer and buy enough food to feed 100 people.
When we came home to prepare them, we turned the music up and had a blast while putting everything together (meals were basically the top shelf version of what your mother would put in your lunch when she sent you off to school – turkey sammich, fruit snacks, piece of fruit, Caprisun, bottle of water, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and a little Christmas note) .
We drove around LA passing the meals out and naturally shared our experiences on our personal social media accounts, jokingly tagging each post with #HashtagLunchbag (making fun of hashtags and it rhymed – even better).
We live by the mantra “If it feels good, keep doing it.” Well, it felt great and enough people hit us up asking when the next one was going to be so we decided to come together at least once a month.
By sharing our experiences each time, the movement grew out of our home into a local restaurant and quickly spread across the country and now, the world.
What sets #HashtagLunchbag apart?
We have a very fun-first approach to giving, while really integrating the intention that goes into each and every meal that our volunteers make.
There’s a DJ playing music, dancing, social media breaks, and other high-energy, positive vibes surrounding everything. We believe the best part of what we provide has nothing to do with the food inside.
The handwritten love notes acknowledges the humanity of the recipient of each meal, while empowering our volunteers to see how quickly they can positively impact their immediate surroundings.
By sharing these individual experiences, we get to inspire friends/followers, turning each ripple of kindness into a wave of change.
#HashtagLunchbag is just as much of an online movement as it is an offline one. What kind of a role do you see social media playing in the realm of philanthropy in the coming years?
For the first time in the history of the world, each and every one of us has a global platform.
Whether you have 10 followers or 10 million, you have the ability to lead through your actions and inevitably positively influence at least ONE person – and that’s enough. We always say we’re not trying to feed a million people by ourselves; rather we want to inspire a million people to feed one person each.
The things that the leader’s of the past (the Martin Luther King’s, the Gandhi’s and the Cesar Chavez’s) were able to accomplish without the internet shaped society as we know it today. Imagine if everyone used their influence to inspire their immediate circles. Crazy, right?
As a global movement, what are the most challenging obstacles that #HashtagLunchbag has to face and how are they overcome?
Just like any other organization, we’ve encountered our fair share of growing pains.
We never set out to create a global movement and have found it difficult to implement an efficient structure for something that is essentially successful because there wasn’t a structure to begin with. Everything has been built backwards because of this.
Even the Living Through Giving Foundation, the non-profit organization that #HashtagLunchbag lives under, was established 10 months after we made our first bagged lunch. We are a small but mighty team that is working very hard to wrangle the proper resources to support each of our global communities and our currently seeking the funding to be able to sustain and expand our vision.
What is #HashtagLunchbag’s overarching vision? Why should people get involved?
Our purpose is to Feed & Feel Love. We believe that when feeding other people, we’re really feeding ourselves and that feeling of presence and gratitude we experience when doing so is the ultimate reward. This approach to activism, which we refer to as Proactivism, presents a call to action that lets people know that each and every moment is an opportunity to be in service. We are creating communities centered around giving in their own backyard, with the sum of each individual’s local efforts inspiring global impact. From a ripple to a wave!
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