Klay Thompson helps feed East Bay hungry

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson helped a roomful of volunteers stuff lunch bags for hungry East Bay residents in downtown Oakland Tuesday afternoon.

The 150 Golden State Warriors season ticket holders, Warriors staff and employees of San Francisco-based auto insurance company Esurance teamed up with organizers from #HashtagLunchbag to put together 1,000 bag lunches in the Oakland Marriott City Center.

The volunteers put together the lunch bags on an assembly line. They added a ham and cheese sandwich, a clementine, a cookie, a bottle of water and a personalized note to each bag.

They were then distributed to homeless assistance organizations in the East Bay, including the East Bay Community Project, Operation Dignity, the Dream Catcher Emergency Youth Shelter, A Safe Place, the Salvation Army, the Bay Area Rescue Mission and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, organizers said.

Hashtag Lunchbag is a network of grassroots organizations that started two years ago in Los Angeles where volunteers hold monthly meetups to pack and distribute bag lunches. The group has grown worldwide through social media outreach.

Rebecca Cahua started the San Francisco group in 2013 and it celebrated its one-year anniversary in November. When they finish packing, the group typically goes into impoverished neighborhoods like Tenderloin to distribute between 500 and 1,500 lunches.

If they have any left over they donate them to shelters. The project fills an important hole in the city’s homeless outreach as most shelters provide only breakfast and dinner, Cahua said.

In November, they handed the lunches to people waiting in line at shelters, who were grateful for the gesture, Cahua said:

“Everywhere we drove in the city, somebody had a lunch.”

The disparate nature of the organization and innovative use of social media to organize got the attention of today’s sponsors, the Warriors and Esurance, Esurance spokesman Chris Lee said today.

The San Francisco-based company didn’t want to limit its involvement with the Warriors to sponsorship and signage and took it as an opportunity to give back to its hometown, he said. As a company using the Internet extensively, Lee said saw the HashtagLunchbag project as a great alignment with the Esurance brand:

“It’s a community program but they’re using social media. … It’s an innovative idea.”

The volunteers hustled for hours making sandwiches, putting them into bags, stuffing the bags and hauling them out to delivery vans. But most of the room stopped and gathered around when the star of the day, Thompson, arrived to help.

He put a few sandwiches into bags, but his role served more as an inspiration as he paused with photos with the starstruck volunteers.