On the last Monday of every month, dozens of people leave a large, industrial kitchen on Potrero Avenue armed with burritos. Cyclists wheel out their bikes, weighted down with panniers, people on foot lug around large backpacks, and a few people load up their cars to venture toward the edges of the city. These are the volunteers of the Burrito Project, a monthly, free-meal delivery for people living on San Francisco’s streets. On May 21, the project turns two, an anniversary that neatly coincides with another milestone: Thus far, volunteers have delivered more than 10,000 burritos to those in need.
Founder Jimmy Ryan launched the Burrito Project in 2016, after seeing a similar project underway in L.A. Its success may be tied to its simplicity; a two-hour, once-a-month commitment is fairly easy to hit, and the tasks, which vary from making beans to rolling burritos to delivering them, are easy regardless of skill.
According to Burrito Project organizer Eric Tuvel, future ambitions are fairly simple: Make more burritos, and increase their reach. In the past year, several collaborations have already occurred: 480 burritos were delivered as part of Northern California wildfire relief efforts in October 2017. The group has also partnered with needle exchanges, single-room-occupancy hotels, and Larkin Street Youth Services to reach a wider range of people.
But at the core of the Burrito Project’s success are volunteers.
“The response from our volunteers has been so incredible!” says Tuvel. “Every month we see our volunteers return, bringing their friends, co-workers, and families for the first time. Some have even chosen the Burrito Project SF as a beneficiary of fundraisers. One of our regular volunteers brought her niece who is a comedian, who hosts the Mermaid Show at the Exit Theater. At each show, they choose a charity to donate to, and after volunteering she reached out and told us we were selected. Another regular volunteer, who is the current Emperor of the Imperial Council of San Francisco, hosted a tamale cooking class and donated all the proceeds to Burrito Project SF. We could not do this without them.”