Taters for Charity

The Trudeau Center’s baked potato carts employ workers with disabilities in Rhode island.

Rhode Island is home to Mr. Potato Head, and now it boasts its own baked potato cart, too.

Managed by the Trudeau Center in Warwick, Providence Potato Company serves up creative riffs on the baked potato using local produce and ingredients when possible, while providing employment opportunities to people with disabilities.

Gayle Reid, program coordinator for the Worksite Partners Program at the Trudeau Center, explained that grant money was earned from Social Venture Partners Rhode Island to establish the business that is allowing disabled participants to learn a trade and increase their future job prospects.

“We help people with an entire range of disabilities—from the severely disabled to those with learning disabilities,” Reid says. “We find out where they can provide the most assistance, whether it’s chopping vegetables in the kitchen or working on the actual cart.”

University of Rhode Island business students also helped by writing the company’s business and marketing plan.

The Trudeau Center kicked off the business in June. They run two carts, serving spuds Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (dependent on weather) in Warwick—along Route 117 where Sandy Lane and West Shore Road split, and at Caster’s Bicycles at 3480 Post Road.

Customers can purchase the mashups for $4-$5 each. Varieties include the “Broc Island” (broccoli and cheese), “Poppasquash” (sweet potato with maple syrup and raisins), “The Galilee” (baked potato with chowder), “Federal Hill Chili” (baked potato with chili, sour cream and cheddar cheese) among other options.

They are also taking recommendations on their Twitter and Facebook pages for which toppings should be included on the “Spuddy Cianci.”

“So far people are saying ‘nothing’ because he’s bald,” Reid says.

Reid got the idea for the potato cart after living in Germany for eight years, where she said potato carts were very popular. The business plan worked for the Trudeau Center because of the public’s desire to eat locally grown foods. Most of the ingredients come from local farms, including potatoes from Schartner Farms and cheese and sour cream from Narragansett Creamery.

“It was always our intent to try to have everything used on the cart be produced and grown in Rhode Island,” Reid says. “So when we have the opportunity, we do that.”

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