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Meet Chrysanthe Oltmann and Dustin Smith of Burrito Project LA in Koreatown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chrysanthe Oltmann and Dustin Smith.

Chrysanthe and Dustin, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Burrito Project is a movement across North America, where folks gather together to make burritos and pass them out to the unhoused in their community. Our friend Maria founded this chapter in March 2015. Twice a month volunteers would meet at her apartment, assemble 100 vegan burritos and pass them out to folks living nearby. When Maria moved from LA, another friend took it over, but when she couldn’t do it anymore, Maria asked us and we decided to take it on.

Since November 2016, we’ve been hosting biweekly meetups at our apartment, raising funds for ingredients through bake sales and online donations. Every 2nd and last Wednesday of the month at 4pm, volunteers come over to make about 100-150 burritos, and then we split into groups to pass them out at encampments in Echo Park, Koreatown and Historic Filipinotown. We also collect donations such as clothing and hygiene items and distribute them as well.

It’s been two and a half years that we’ve been hosting, and this week will be event #52, marking thousands of meals served in our community.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
We’re grateful that we were able to learn from Maria, since neither of us had any experience cooking large amounts of food. We both work, so we’ve found ways to make things as seamless as possible, such as using rice cookers to make our Spanish rice for the burritos. There’s been events where only three volunteers show up, but it always seems to work out. We’ve also had the opposite happen, where 25 volunteers show up and we run out of things for people to help with – which is a great problem to have! A more frequent issue is when we show up to an encampment and find that they’ve been cleared out by the authorities, at which point we have to do our best to locate those in need.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We’re looking forward to celebrating three years of hosting events in November. We’re about to start planning another bake sale fundraiser to keep us going into 2020. And we’ve linked up with other Burrito Projects in US and Canada, with the goal of establishing resources for others to start their own chapters!

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