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Biking banditos bestowing burritos

Some UC Irvine students are making wrapped-up Mexican food and giving it out the homeless of Santa Ana.

October 23, 2010|By Joanna Clay
  • Anthony Singhavong, Nate Fung, Shirley Chang, and Emi Nakamura, left to right, make burritos on the living room table.
Anthony Singhavong, Nate Fung, Shirley Chang, and Emi… (Daily Pilot )

It all started during a church service.

Anthony Singhavong, a fourth-year student at UC Irvine, was attending NewSong Community Church in the spring of 2009 when Pastor Tony Kim spoke about the importance of serving the community.

"They're just really big on inspiring the younger generation," Singhavong said about his church.

Kim mentioned the Burrito Project, a nationwide relief effort involving groups making burritos for the homeless. The project won the first MySpace Impact Award in 2006 and there are now Burrito Projects all over the United States, from Los Angeles to Detroit. The church was going to start one in northern Orange County.

Singhavong knew he wanted to be part of the project, but he had a different plan.

"We had this vision of [the Burrito Project] being run by college students," Singhavong said.

He also didn't want to be associated with the church.

"Anyone could come of any religious affiliation," he said. "Obviously we have our own beliefs and stuff, but the idea of helping another person is a worldwide, common trait."

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A week later, the Burrito Banditos of Irvine were born.

Singhavong and his roommates — Andrew Yang, Steven Wang, Mike Fukuda and Josh Yu — decided they would help out the homeless of Santa Ana because, although the city was close to Irvine, it provided a stark contrast to the university town.

"The reason we chose Santa Ana is … when you cross the 405 Freeway, about 10 minutes in, you're like 'What is this place?'" he said. "It's not like Irvine all around the world."

Because they're students, Singhavong and his roommates had to find a way to make a burrito within their limited budgets. Plus, they were working off donations from other students because they did not want to be affiliated with a religious institution.

"We came up with something that was easy to make and affordable, because we're college students," said Yu, the Banditos' burrito chef. "These are just rice and bean burritos. If they wanted to, they could probably keep it for a couple days before it goes bad."

Each ride of distributing the food costs $60 to $70 and produces about 150 burritos. It includes a water bottle and covers the necessary supplies (such as bags and tinfoil) to create the burritos. Sometimes, when donations come in, they're able to add a granola bar or a pair of socks.

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