Friday, October 16, 2009

Solar Waffle Works

A new solar-powered food cart in northeast Portland serves up more than waffles.

Located at N.E. Alberta St. and 23rd Ave. and set to open later this month, the small blue trailer housing "Solar Waffle Works" is a nonprofit project that helps high school graduates gain independent living skills and vocational training.

The young adults involved are part of the PPS Community Transition Program, which helps recent graduates transition to life after high school.

Corinne Thomas-Kersting, CTP administrator, says Solar Waffle Works benefits students by making them active partners in the creation and management of a socially responsible start-up.

"This project gets them out of the classroom and into the real world," says Thomas-Kersting. "That hands-on experience is incredibly valuable."

Students designed the cart from start-to-finish: they helped create the business plan, the logo, the marketing concepts and the menu, assisted with preparing the cart for service and will work in Solar Waffle Works preparing and serving food as well assisting with accounting and advertising.

The cart is the result of a partnership between PPS and SolTrekker, a Northeast-based nonprofit dedicated to renewable energy education. A solar panel array on the cart's roof supplies much of its power.

"It's about a lot more than CTP students learning how to flip waffles," says Allison Hintzmann, a CTP transition specialist who envisioned and co-created Solar Waffle Works with students and SolTrekker. "This fosters entrepreneurship while also teaching skills that will make them more employable."

In addition to job training, Solar Waffle Works emphasizes the importance of conserving resources and reducing environmental impact.

SolTrekker provided the trailer and added plumbing and solar components. The nonprofit contributed labor, funds and materials and received partial funding from PPS and the Spirit Mountain Community Fund.

Ty Adams, founder and board chair at SolTrekker, says his organization didn't need any convincing to participate.

"This is a project that's not just unique to Portland, but one that is unique nationwide," says Adam. "It's definitely the tastiest project we've ever been a part of."

Visiting Solar Waffle Works

For its grand opening, Solar Waffle Works will feature live music and free samples on Saturday, Oct. 24, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at its location on N.E. Alberta St. and 23rd Ave. Hours of business will be 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Weekday revenue supports the Community Transition Program.

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