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by Kevin Coupe

There was a fascinating piece in the Washington Post the other day about a new concept being tested in the UK - vending machines for the homeless, described as “ a 24/7 pit stop where people can access free food, clothing and other basic supplies.”

According to the story, “The first vending machine launched this month in a shopping center in Nottingham, stocked full of supplies like water, fresh fruit, energy bars, chips and sandwiches, as well as socks, toothpaste, toothbrushes and even books. The machine was installed by Action Hunger,” a charity directed by Huzaifah Khaled, who saw the need while commuting to and from university and seeing how severe the homeless problem was. He saw that part of the problem was limited access to services that some homeless people have, and identified expansion of access as a key opportunity for meaningful change.

The Post writes, “N&W Global Vending, one of the world’s largest vending companies, gave Khaled a 10,000-pound, or about $13,000, machine free. Meanwhile, Khaled reached out to the Friary, a day center serving the homeless in the Nottingham area. Now, as a partner organization to Action Hunger, the Friary gives out keycards to its patrons, which are programmed to permit up to three items being dispensed per day.  Users have to show up at the Friary once a week to continue receiving access to the keycards.

“The idea is users do not become dependent on the machines, and are working toward a long-term plan for getting off the streets, Khaled explained. He wants Action Hunger’s low-cost vending machines, which are restocked daily by volunteers, to complement other existing services, and believes continued engagement with local support services is key to ending the cycle of homelessness.”

Expansion already is planned: “A machine will be installed in New York City in February, followed by San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles. Action Hunger has partnered up with Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a food rescue nonprofit based in New York City, and is also in talks with Tyson Foods.”

Khaled says that he “hopes Action Hunger’s vending machines will represent a step toward a sustainable, long-term solution to homelessness,” though he also says that he looks forward to the day when he actually can shut his charity down.

Very interesting approach to an ongoing problem. And, I think, Eye-Opening.
KC's View: