First came the decorations for the bags: a few words of inspiration, a drawing, and a heart with a pound sign scrawled inside. Next came the lunch: a turkey sandwich, an apple, an Oreo cookie and a water bottle — with most of the food paid for, and prepared by, Coppin State University students.
And then came the social media campaign. The students huddled for photos to post on Instagram and Twitter, tagging their entries with #HashTagLunchBag, as they became the first Baltimore group to participate in an effort to feed homeless people that has been spread through social networking sites.
"I want to give back as much as I can because Coppin has given so much to me," said senior Brittney Wagner, who organized the Saturday morning event.
After assembling the lunch bags, the four dozen participants split into smaller groups to distribute the lunches in areas where homeless people gather.
Wagner, president of the university's Sports Management Association, rounded up about $350 in donations from the interim dean of the College of Business, Ron Williams, and student financial outreach coordinator Terri Hackett to buy the ingredients for the sandwiches.
A Pasadena native, Wagner, 22, learned about the Hashtag Lunch Bag project from her sister Tiffanie Wagner, 25, who works in public relations in Washington. Tiffanie Wagner has helped organize two rounds of the charitable event there.
"It's really easy to get people to help with it because there isn't too much structure," said the older sister.
Hashtag Lunch Bag was founded on Christmas Day last year in Los Angeles by a small group of friends who were seeking to do something simple to help the homeless, according to the group's web page. The founders started posting pictures on Twitter and Instagram tagged HashtagLunchBag, prompting others to ask about the event — and recreate it in other cities.
Since then, programs have started in a dozen other cities. The group's website offers easy instructions on how to purchase the raw materials, assemble the lunch bags and distribute them.
Jade Stokes, a senior sports management and medicine major from Baltimore, wrote "Fall seven times, stand up eight" and "It can only get better" with colored markers on brown paper bags. The students also drew a heart encircling a pound sign on the bags, the group's logo.
Stokes' sister, the manager of the Catonsville Hair Cuttery, had agreed to join the group's outreach efforts, offering free haircuts for homeless people.
Stokes said she thought it was important for Coppin students to undertake such projects because the university often attracts attention for its poor graduation rate.
"This is a way of showing people all the positive things happening at Coppin," said Stokes, vice president of the Sports Management Association.
Students from other universities who learned about the program from social media or from friends at Coppin also joined in.
Joshua Day, a senior health administration and policy major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, contemplated those who would eat the stacks of turkey breast, American cheese and iceberg lettuce that he layered on white bread.
"It doesn't seem like much, but every little bit counts," said Day. "It's just one meal, but one meal can get you through."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun