Alumni-owned 50 Buns serves up hot meals for individuals experiencing homelessness
Jeveen Sandhu and Gowris Sripathmanathan have started their Saturday mornings the same way for the past two years.
Every weekend, the two pull out of their respective driveways around 6 a.m — Sripathmanathan in Angus, Ont. and Sandhu in London, Ont. — and meet up at a St. Louis Bar & Grill in Barrie two hours later. Using the restaurant’s empty kitchen, they grill 50 to 100 burgers, then load them into their cars, drive to Toronto and hand out meals at local parks and streets.
The founders of 50 Buns, a non-profit dedicated to providing hot meals to people experiencing homelessness in the Greater Toronto Area, Sandhu, and Sripathmanathan have always recognized the importance of helping their communities. This philanthropic spirit was fostered further at Sheridan, where they say their professors would often encourage their classes to do volunteer work within their communities.
“(Retired professor) Tim Onyschuk often talked about the benefits of volunteering with the community, and how it can leave really positive impacts on a person or a group of people,” says Sripathmanathan.
They also point to Police Foundations instructors Malcolm Bow and Tanya Philp, who taught them about the long-term positive effects of working within your community.
“We’re thrilled to have built this team and these partnerships so we can continue giving back to the community, but I think it’s important to remember that 50 Buns started with just two guys who had a simple idea and ran with it.”– Gowris Sripathmanathan
The pair launched 50 Buns in April 2020, just two weeks after their final exams from Sheridan’s Police Foundations diploma program. After volunteering in various organizations during their time at Sheridan and seeing how individuals experiencing homelessness were being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, they felt a responsibility to help.
Sripathmanathan had previously worked at St. Louis Bar & Grill and struck up a partnership with the owner, asking if he could buy the meat and produce at cost. St. Louis did one better, providing the 50 Buns team with a key to the restaurant to use the kitchen before open hours.
The first weekend that Sandhu and Sripathmanathan ventured to Toronto with their burgers in tow, they admit they were a bit aimless. But by the second or third week, they found key city pockets where people were in need of a warm meal.
“We kept it consistent and went to the same parks every weekend to develop our trust and reputation within those communities. So eventually, folks in areas such as Moss Park began expecting us. They’d be waiting for us on the sidewalks, knowing we would be there around 11 a.m. to distribute meals.” says Sandhu.
Known as “the Sheridan guys” (the pair started out wearing Sheridan-branded t-shirts), their burgers were often distributed in less than 15 minutes.
Two years later, Sripathmanathan and Sandhu have expanded the 50 Buns team and recruited several partners to help supply more food options to those in need, all while working full-time during the week and working towards a career in policing. Toronto-based Böld Lemonade, for example, has joined 50 Buns on several deliveries, providing high-quality lemonade alongside the burgers. They’ve also partnered up with a local produce supplier, who donates fruits and healthy snacks. And Love ’Em Co, a Toronto-based apparel brand, who also helps fund a portion of 50 Buns’ food costs and donates 10% of its monthly profits to the organization.
“We’re thrilled to have built this team and these partnerships so we can continue giving back to the community, but I think it’s important to remember that 50 Buns started with just two guys who had a simple idea and ran with it,” says Sripathmanathan
“Yeah, our message to everybody is if there’s something you want to do, you should just go do it,” adds Sandhu. “Take initiative if it’s something you love doing and put in the work.”