Perhaps one of the most life-changing and inspiring opportunities SXSW attendees can take part in is from four new food-cart bikes manned by Austin’s homeless.
Created by Austin’s own Mobile Loaves and Fishes, a nonprofit that seeks to provide food and clothing to those in need, the new Street Treats endeavor will launch on Sunday, March 10 at 3 p.m. from the corner of 11th and Congress Avenue with four food carts aimed to build a sustainable method of income for the homeless through work.
And in a city where food trucks are, more often than not, synonymous with success, launching a series of mobile food carts to benefit a struggling segment of our community is a perfect match. Especially when these nifty little bike-powered carts will be roaming the city streets selling either Blue Bell Ice Cream, Third Coast Coffee, water and snacks, or hand made pies from the Texas Pie Kitchen. (It also helps that you can immediately find one of them by checking their Twitter feed @StreetTreatsATX for their latest location.)
Sponsoring one of the Mobile Loaves and Fishes Street Treats carts was an ideal fit for Jen Biddle, founder of the Zephaniah Community Development Corporation, which owns the Texas Pie Kitchen.
“Our goal with this initiative is that at the end of the day, the people working the carts will have enough money in their pockets to have a living wage,” says Biddle, who hopes that it can also help spread the word about the Texas Pie Kitchen mission to help low income adults with barriers to employment.
Biddle founded the Texas Pie Kitchen in 2006 as a way to marry her skills for pie baking with heart for helping the homeless. “I have a love and commitment to the poor,” says Biddle whose career in social work has been an ongoing passion. “I wanted to take my skills for making pie and put them with my social work to make a difference.”
Today, Texas Pie Kitchen offers a baking training program for the poor through an application process. The training equips students with self sufficiency skills to help get them back on their feet and also offers transitional job opportunities to help instruct incoming students.
The Texas Pie Kitchen Street Treat cart will serve mini (3-inch) chocolate chess, lemon chess and chocolate pecan pies for $3 and those working the cart will be able to retain the $2 profit from each pie. Likewise, the other Street Treat carts from Mobile Loaves and Fishes will serve sundries for $1, with 50 cents per item going to the vendor.
“Our ultimate hope is to have people recognize that everyone has talent, but not everyone has the same opportunities in our city and world. This is a great way to do that,” says Nate Schlueter, director of the Relationships and Opportunities Allowing for Dignity and Security (ROADS) program through Mobile Loaves and Fishes. “It’s a beautiful exchange of money, product, and a lot of smiles to get those guys out there in dignified ways.”
Through endeavors like the Street Treats program, ROADS works to help create flexible opportunities for the chronically homeless to use their talents to earn a modest income. The carts will continue to operate during SXSW and throughout 2013 on the streets of Austin. Schlueuter hopes the program will eventually find a location near the downtown area from which to base more food cart bikes, so that there could be up to a fleet of 20 bikes working Austin’s streets.
“Our motive is truly enabling these guys to lift themselves up off the streets,” says Schlueter. “This is a great way to do that.”
While you’re out and about during SXSW satisfy your snack cravings with a stop at one of the Street Treats carts. You’ll not only garner a tasty treat, but you’ll be giving back by helping someone in need.