The UK is suffering from a food poverty crisis and it’s getting worse. More than 8 million people are struggling to put food on the table, which has led to a 13% rise in food bank use. This has put a huge strain on food banks and their ability to consistently provide balanced and nutritious meals.
Food banks rely on the public for donations which they receive via physical donation points but this has led to supply issues:
• At specified drop points for pre-purchased items, food banks often receive too many of certain products and not enough of other essential items.
• At prompted drop points commonly at supermarkets, they are often past the point of purchase which results in fewer donations or donations that aren’t actually needed.
We set out to create something that triggered people to donate and only send what is actually needed. Most people look at vending machines as something they use to buy things for themselves. We wanted to turn that on its head and create a vending machine that can be used to provide food for other people.
The Sending Machine is a digital vending machine that comprises of a touch screen display and touch payment device, allowing for fresh food as well as long-life products to be donated to the right people at the right time.
Working with a local food bank, we created a set of products that represented their major stock categories. Designed and rendered in 3D, these populate the screen reminiscent of a vending machine.
Food bank stock data is collected and analysed and the Sending Machine updates in real-time, reconfiguring to display the products that are urgently required.
Passers-by are able to send what’s really needed to those who really need it with just two taps. Tapping the product on the screen selects it. Tapping a credit card, debit card or pay enabled smartphone on the payment device makes the purchase.
The donation is confirmed by an on-screen animation that sees the product ‘sent’ backwards in the vending machine coil.
The donated item is added to a communal checkout. When this reaches a designated threshold, an order is placed with an online retailer who delivers the goods to the food bank.
One of the benefits of this streamlined process is that delivery can be synchronized with food bank distribution schedules. This means fresh food can be donated as well as the typical long-life products.
“The Sending Machine has revolutionised our service. And we can now offer healthier food to the people who come through our door.”
– Debbie Pemberton, Programme Manager at the First Love Foundation
The Sending Machine is a representation of digital transformation within the Not-for-profit industry. It is “engaging”, because it calls for sparked interest and involvement of passers-by, resulting in the removal of any obstacles that are in the way of delivering adequate food to whomever is in need and in a timely manner.