Food ATMs are also being piloted by the UN’s World Food Programme in refugee camps in East Africa. After all, logic suggests that as beneficiaries are used to receiving their cash this way, why not their food? According to WFP, just one food ATM is expected to improve nutrition and safe access to food assistance for thousands of refugees. Implemented at scale, they say, it could provide a global solution to food insecurity for hundreds of thousands of people around the world affected by the pandemic.
Although the idea seems completely wacky, there are – in theory, at least – a number of potential benefits. These include:
- Decreased environmental waste through reductions in food waste and packaging
- Reduced incidence of disease, as most beneficiaries do not have appropriate (refrigerated) storage systems
- Reduced waiting times as beneficiaries will no longer have to wait in line for their monthly rations or run the risk of running out of food
- Multiplier effects in the local economy through use of locally-sourced products which go on to catalyse economic growth
- Reduced carbon footprint because food will not have to be transported thousands of miles and repackaged on-site
- Increased protection as 24/7 access allows small amounts of food to be carried and safely stored at home
- Increased agency and dignity as beneficiaries can choose where and when to access their food
- Enhanced nutritional intake owing to better storage and quality assurance of foodstuffs
- Significant cost savings over in-kind distributions as recent research has found that at least one third of food-baskets are either spoiled or stolen before getting into the beneficiary’s hands or sold at a discount once it has (Source: World Vision)
This is one for The ATM Appreciation Society to watch as the idea is up there with ATMs that dispense water in Nairobi, rosaries and condolence cards outside a cemetery in Zurich, and insurance policies in South Africa.