The nose knows. Be it a taco, burrito or chimichanga, the smell of Mexican food brings a promise of pleasure to the palate. For the homeless and disenfranchised, it can make a difference in their outlook on life.
Burritos, defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as simply “a tortilla folded around a filling,” can, in some cases, mean the difference between having enough to eat, or going hungry. To respond to that need, a project that originated in California has now spread to Tucson.
The Burrito Project in Los Angeles makes and distributes as many as 2,500 burritos per month that are given to homeless populations throughout LA and Orange County.
“We make lots and lots of burritos at one of our food bank kitchens, then caravan to Skid Row in downtown LA to deliver the freshly-made edibles,” said project coordinator, Alan Pinel, who admitted his mother inspired his actions by reminding him as a child to share what he had.
The humanitarianism behind that effort resonated with Erik Korchmaros, chef at Tucson’s downtown Veg Box Café, who teamed up with holistic health coach Tara Kligman to create a local take-off on the LA endeavor, called the Compassionate Burrito Project for Tucson.
It’s all about offering healthy burritos filled with organic vegetables donated by Wholesum Harvest, along with beans, rice and Veg Box’s fire-roasted salsa to downtown’s homeless.
Korchmaros is a man on a mission to provide plant-based food choices, meatless meals that are nutritious. He calls it a “Vegalution.”
“We’re advocates for food justice and believe our world would be a much more beautiful place if we treated one another as friends and neighbors and honored the community we live in.,” he said. “This kind of project fits right in with who we are as Tucsonans. It brings inspiration and innovation to our community.”
For Kligman, a holistic health coach, this first step on a journey of a thousand miles could pick up steam.
“We’d like to inspire a movement,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with a business making money, but it’s also important that they give back to help the community.”
“It’s called Holistic Entrepreneurs,” Korchmaros added. “It’s a new wave of businesses who are not just out to make a profit, but to inspire people to give back.”
While a far cry from the established LA set up, the Compassionate Burrito Project for Tucson got underway earlier this year with an initial delivery of nearly six dozen burritos to socially-conscious protestors supporting San Carlos Apaches in their Oak Flat standoff against corporate mining.
“It was a symbolic start,” said the Veg Box chef who recently departed his downtown location and returned to the familiar lime-green alternative food truck while re-locating at a new midtown site.
“Once we get settled in the new place, plans are in place to resume a once-a-month burrito-making session, probably 100 at a time, to be distributed to the homeless, veterans, those we can help. It’s something that needs to be done and while we don’t have an abundance of cash, we’re making it happen with faith.”
Faith and some project partnership with Wholesum Harvest with grow houses in Amado and Patagonia Orchards produce house in Nogales.
“All it takes to begin a circle of assistance,” says Korchmaros, “is for one person to do something good that will inspire someone else to contribute to the cause. It’s a holistic thing. If there’s more people doing inspirational stuff, then more people will be inspired to help the next person in need, and that’s the genesis of the Compassionate Burrito Project for Tucson.”