Three evenings a week, when many of us are winding down from work, a group of volunteers fills the kitchen of Frida’s Bistro and begins warming up fresh tortillas, beans and fluffy rice to make Mexican-style burritos.
Together they make approximately 500 burritos and put them in insulated bags, so that the next group of volunteers can get on their bikes and hand them out around Salt Lake City. The bikes are the key to getting these high-protein burritos to places where cars can’t go, perhaps under a bridge or in a corner of a park in downtown Salt Lake City, Sugar House, or near the Jordan River.
This efficient assembly line doesn’t happen without a lot of preparation, and in fact it has a name, the Burrito Project.
Started in 2012 by Jorge Fierro, the Burrito Project recently became a non-profit organization, run by community members who want to make a difference, one meal at a time. While it has reached a huge milestone here in Salt Lake, it is a nationwide campaign. Organizers describe the project as a group of friends who feed the hungry and homeless in cities around the world, encouraging people “to get together with friends and build burritos to take to the streets.” The group has no political nor religious affiliation.
Fierro is the local business owner of Rico’s brand and Frida’s Bistro. When he was approached about the concept, he saw a great opportunity to make a difference by using his existing food establishment. Fierro makes it all possible by supplying the location and the food. He and his employees have everything laid out and prepared for the volunteers to come in and get to work.
Originally, the Burrito Project operated two days a week and made approximately 200 burritos a day, but as word got out, more and more people got involved. Fierro leads the group with a simple but strong motto, “Pay it forward.” He sees this project as an act of community, caring, and love that not only fills these individuals’ stomachs but also fills their hearts with hope, reminding them that they are not alone. “Oftentimes we look the other way, but we can’t. We have to be compassionate,” he said.
Fierro’s’s own story is fascinating, as he also came from humble beginnings. He was born in Mexico, but moved to the United States at an early age. He became homeless for a time and wasn’t sure what the future had in store, but the fundamentals for success were there: hard work, ambition, humility, and an eagerness to invoke change.
From personal experience, he understands that we all face challenges, and at one time or another, might need to be uplifted by our neighbors. Fierro’s commitment to service goes well beyond this project; it is his way of life.
In addition to helping with this effort to feed the hungry, Fierro also serves on many boards such as Local First, Spice Kitchen, River District Business Alliance, and American Heart Association. Recently he was the recipient of the Outstanding Community Service award from NeighborWorks Salt Lake.
If you are looking for opportunities to get involved with the Burrito Project, visit www.burritoprojectslc.webs.com.