Charity vending machine gives out free food to homeless people

Charity Action Hunger has kickstarted the service design initiative, which provides homeless people in Nottingham with essential items for free with the use of a key card.

Action Hunger vending machine in Intu Broadmarsh, Nottingham © Harry Ward

A charity has launched a vending machine that gives out essential items for homeless people, to help provide “sustenance” for the “most vulnerable in society”.

Action Hunger installs machines that provide homeless people with free food and other items at any time of day.

This includes water, fresh fruit, energy bars, crisps, chocolate, sandwiches, socks, sanitary towels, antibacterial lotion, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and books.

First machine in Nottingham

There is currently one machine installed in Intu Broadmarsh in Nottingham, with a second soon due to be installed in Manchester.

A key card is needed to use the vending machines, which are given out to homeless people by local charities that have partnered with Action Hunger.

Users can collect three items from the vending machine per day, which aims to “prevent dependency” on the machines, says Action Hunger.

Not a replacement for homeless shelters, says charity

The initiative aims to be a “low-cost solution” to providing homeless people with “sustenance” 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It looks to work alongside other charities such as local support services and shelters to help “break the cycle of homelessness”, it adds.

“Action Hunger is not seeking to supplant the incredible efforts of existing charities for the homeless that exist – we [want] to work with them,” says the charity. “While other organisations can offer empathy, human contact and counselling… we solely provide unmanned vending machines. Our aim is to… [ensure] that help is always available.”

“Inexpensive” to run

The charity adds that the scheme is economical and “inexpensive” to run as the machines are automated, so do not require staff to operate them or to man premises.

The scheme also aims to cut food waste by collecting excess produce from supermarkets and local shops, which are then used to fill the vending machines. Action Hunger then buys additional, non-perishable items such as socks and sanitary towels with donation money.

The charity is looking to install more machines across the UK, and is currently seeking suitable sites, which must be accessible at all times, and “well-lit, safe and sheltered from weather”, according to Action Hunger.

The concept is also moving to the US, with two machines set to be installed in New York in February 2018, and ones in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle to follow.

The vending machine in Intu Broadmarsh, Nottingham, has now launched. Homeless people can collect key cards from local partner charity, The Friary.

© Harry Ward

Hide Comments (2)Show Comments (2)
  • Ruby Dillon January 10, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    Where do I get information to try and bring one of these to my local city?

    • Sarah Dawood January 11, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      Hi Ruby,

      You can try getting in touch with the founders at Action Hunger – here’s the site:

      Design Week team

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