Hashtag Lunchbag combines activism and social media

Syracuse students inspire others to give back by sharing their community service experience via social media.

For Kevin Claiborne, his Saturday started simply enough. He rounded up a few friends, took a trip to a grocery store and they gathered in Syracuse’s Barry Park to make a few sandwiches.

But he wasn’t making sandwiches for himself. He and his friends spent the afternoon preparing lunch bags for the hungry and homeless and then shared their community service through social media.

Photo: Irfan Uraizee
The #Hashtag Lunchbag of Syracuse group meets on the first Saturday of every month.

“It makes me feel good,” Claiborne, a higher education administration graduate student, said. “It just goes to show you that when you get a bunch of like-minded people together that you can make an impact on the community at large.

The day-long gathering is all a part of the Hashtag Lunchbag movement, and the idea is simple: Gather a group of volunteers to pack lunches, distribute those lunches to people in need in your neighborhood and then share these acts of kindness on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The idea for this grassroots social media-driven movement began in Los Angeles back in 2012. A group of friends gathered together on Christmas Day with the idea of preparing meals for those in need while using #HashtagLunchbag to document their efforts.

Two years later, the movement has made its way across the country. After Claiborne saw pictures of events from Cleveland to Chicago, he decided to help bring the movement to Syracuse.

“Syracuse needs something like this. Something to target, not just the youth, but everybody who uses social media,” Claiborne said. People in the community want to give back to the Syracuse area, I haven’t really see anything like it, so I felt that it was important to bring it to the area.”

The group of student volunteers made nearly 100 lunch bags total and included a note with a positive message in each bag. They delivered the lunch bags to the Rescue Mission and different neighborhoods across Syracuse or wherever the group saw people in need.

It’s a simple effort, but the reaction from the community was overwhelmingly positive.

“People were embracing us. One person who we had just helped took the opportunity to ask how he could contribute. A lot of people felt like this was something that was needed in the community, a lot of people expressed that,” Claiborne said.

Claiborne said many in the community have asked him to keep the program going, and many others ask him about how they can become involved.

“It was great to meet up with people from different background, different jobs, but we came together for a common goal. That was fun,” said public diplomacy graduate Timi Komonibo. “It’s refreshing to work on something that betters the community and is bigger than ourselves.”

For Claiborne, his passion for community service started from a young age. 

“My mother was always big on giving back to really anyone that needs help, those that are less fortunate in need of assistance. I try to help whoever I can, however I can, whenever I can,” Claiborne said.

Claiborne said he hopes that the Hashtag Lunchbag movement has inspired others to go out and do the same to better their communities.

“It doesn’t take as much as people may think it takes. Just a few hours and some compassion.”

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