By Mrinal Gokhale
In the kitchen stood Lloyd “Flow” Johnson with about 18 friends and relatives, making sandwiches for the homeless people there.
Outside of the kitchen was a group and some children decorating lunch bags with holiday pictures and thoughtful messages.
This event is known as #HashtagLunchbag.
The movement started in California a few years ago, when a group of friends would hand out food to homeless people on the streets, taking photos for social media, tagged with #HashtagLunchbag.
The movement quickly spread in the U.S. and other countries because it is free of cost and easy to get involved.
This past October, Johnson, Milwaukee born photographer living in Chicago, brought the #HashtagLunchbag movement to Milwaukee for the first time, handing out hundreds of lunches to people living on the streets on Wisconsin Ave.
“The difference about today’s #HasthtagLunchbag in Milwaukee is the location and how we stayed at a food bank rather than going on the streets,” he said.
“There were about 200 lunches that just went so fast this time, since we were in a food bank.”
Johnson is happy to return to his hometown to do a #HashtagLunchbag event. He’s very passionate about helping homeless people and holds #HashtagLunchbag events, art and open mic shows for homeless communities in Chicago. He also depicts homeless life in different states through professional, surreal photography he displays and sells. “I feel I have a responsibility to do a #HashtagLunchbag in my home city because not enough people are stepping up.
I’m so honored that my friends and family came from different states to volunteer,” he explained.
Alexandria Spott, 26, of Milwaukee participated in her first #HashtagLunchbag that day, helping make the sandwiches with her mother.
“The kitchen was small so we formed assembly lines. I found it funny that I was in charge of adding meat in the bread as a pescatarian, but it’s all good,” she laughed.
She feels that all the people she met at the shelter made the event memorable.
“Everyone was so grateful and the event was so casual that I felt like I knew everyone,” she said.
Spott said she’s inspired to participate again, and one day, host her own. “I actually know one of the people who started #HashtagLunchbag but haven’t gotten the chance to go to California, so I was excited to hear Flow was hosting one here.”
“This proves a little goes a long way in terms of helping others. #HashtagLuchbag is such an easy way to offer a helping hand and meet new people.”
Johnson is already prepared to bring back a third event to Milwaukee.
“The next one is going to be January 23, with the location to be decided,” he said.
He plans to offer his professional photography services to those in need at the next event too.
“I will be offering free head shots to anyone that comes through, which hopefully helps anyone who may need them for jobs.”
Visit www.hashtaglunchbag.org to learn more about the movement.