By Shelby Jackson, VRG Intern
Designing your own service project that engages with an issue you and your friends care passionately about can be an extremely rewarding and enjoyable experience. In high school, my friends and I distributed free vegetarian burritos to the homeless. Our project was simple: we would fundraise, use the money to purchase and prepare burritos, and distribute them to the homeless.
This project was an informal operation, and sometimes my friends and I would use the ingredients we found in whatever house we happened to be hanging out in. Other times, we would ask our friends and family for money or we’d contribute from our own pockets. Burritos are just about the easiest and cheapest thing to make, and how you make them can really just depend on what ingredients are available at the grocery store. Its saves money to buy unprepared, bagged beans, and you can cook, drain, and mash them up to create your own refried beans. Spread them on some flour tortillas with a bit of chunky salsa, sautéed peppers and onion, and you’ve got a delicious, nutritious, cheap meal. You can use wax paper to wrap the burrito and secure it with a rubber band. My friends and I drove to the locations where homeless people were known to be, and we passed the burritos out to anyone who wanted one.
Some cities have strict regulations when it comes to feeding the homeless, so be sure to do a bit of research before you get started. Depending on where you live, it might be a good idea to work with an already established organization. You can work with them to incorporate healthier, meat-less options. Find cheap vegetarian recipes that can be easily prepared, and share them with the organization providing the meals. Inform them about the nutritional benefits of meal-less meals, and advocate that the homeless deserve better, more nutritious foods.
Though my friends and I would often eat burritos together, and the project was initially an extension of this time we spent together, Operation Burrito was also something that was very meaningful to us. My first year as a vegan was a time of great confusion, realization and frustration. Before becoming vegan, I was vegetarian for four years. Motivated by a deep appreciation and love for animals, I was not yet aware of the environmental degradation coinciding with an omnivorous diet, the health benefits of a vegan diet, or the implications meat eating has on global food distribution. The latter was what inspired me to become vegan, and my new found understanding of my relation to such pervasive global food inequity was difficult for me to comprehend. I could not understand why the astounding nature of global food disparities – and how truly unsustainable meat consumption is – had not been revealed to me sooner, and worse, why nobody seemed to care.
Operation Burrito provided me a way to channel my frustration with such widespread food injustice in a way that would allow me to help my community. It was a platform for critical discussion among my friends, and was a way for us to make a small difference in the lives of those unable to attain enough food. Our efforts were appreciated by those who ate our burritos, and we were, in a small way, able to feel slightly better about our place in the global scheme of things.