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Sunlight Bites wants you to snack on — just healthier

We’ve all been there.

Back-to-back meetings or classes. No time to stop and the stomach is growling. Sunlight Bites wants to be there for you with a vending machine — but not just any vending machine, one with healthy, plant-based options.

“If we want a quick snack, it needs to be more nutrient dense,” says Lora Schmueker, a part-time vegan chef and Portland Community College student who is developing Sunlight Bites with her partner, Noemy Orozoco.

Lora, Noemy, and Sunlight Bites won a preliminary competition at Portland Community College and is headed for the InventOR finals in Klamath Falls on June 29.

“I’m passionate about health, about the obesity crisis and about diet. I moved here from Iowa and have learned so much about scratch, vegan cooking.”

Lora's bright smile and the animated way she describes the Sunlight Bites innovation underscores that passion. If she has her way, she’ll replace all junk-food vending machines with the Sunlight Bites version: A compact, refrigerated unit you can interact with using a smart phone app that will provide a variety of affordable, locally produced, low-sugar, dairy-free foods. Think of it as a Car2Go—you set up the app and pay with your phone—but for healthy snacks.

The concept was originally called Plant Stop Vending, but Lora and Noemy wanted to get away from any stigma and preconceived notions associated with plant-based foods.

The initial market for Sunlight Bites kiosks will be places like university campuses and hospitals. Lora and Noemy are at work at PCC’s Sylvania Maker Space devising the prototype while simultaneously working on partnerships with local vegan food manufacturers to stock its shelves.

Lora working on the plan for Sunlight Bites at the May 5 InventOR workshop. (Photo credit: Rawan Abo)

“Even if we don’t win the competition, I still want this to happen,” Lora says, musing about maybe getting a sponsorship to help with the rollout a’ la Portland’s Nike-sponsored bike share program. “I don’t care if they put their swoosh on me, I just want people to have access to good food!”

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