What happens when you combine the passion and commitment of more than 100 staff and family members of the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg with a growing social media-fueled hunger alleviation project started in the United States? You get HASHTAGLUNCHBAG and, in Johannesburg last Saturday, over 800 lunches prepared and delivered to hungry kids in nearby townships. HASHTAGLUNCHBAG is a social movement that started in 2012 in California when a small group of young people decided to actually do something about that desire we all hold — to end world hunger. They realized ending world hunger may not come quick, but one lunch at a time, they could make a difference. So, guided by the belief that a small group of committed people can make big change, they donated some money and started making lunches. Thanks to this group’s ambition, coupled with the power of social media, today HASHTAGLUNCHBAG has spread to 16 cities across North America, with one international event in Thailand — and now HASHTAGLUNCHBAG has come to Johannesburg!
The U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg brought together 105 staff, family members and friends to make 840 lunches and then, in an 18-car convoy, we distributed them to three township sites around Johannesburg where the Consulate is supporting grassroots community projects: Ratang Bana in Alexandra, Slovo Centre of Excellence in Slovo Park, and Neo e Bonolo Drop-in Centre in Wattville. All three of these sites serve impoverished communities, heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS. One Consulate staff member said, “Our team’s visit to Neo e Bonolo was especially impactful for all involved. The sight of the children walking with us through the streets will be with me for a long time. And we were so welcomed by the community — that was very much appreciated.” The amazing enthusiasm and goodwill of the volunteers interacting with community members, not to mention distributing hundreds of lunches, made the event a great act of service and a whole lot of fun!