New technology company puts spin on fresh food vending

Pantry machines help non-commercial operators offer more than the traditional chips and soda.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—Food vending machines are nothing new, but in most cases the stuff that’s available in them consists of chips, candy bars, and the occasional pre-packaged, indestructible burrito. But what if there were a way to ensure that there were healthier options available with fresh ingredients? That’s what Pantry‘s smart refrigerators were built for.

Backed by hardware incubator and seed investor Lemnos Labs, Pantry provides a refrigerator that organizations like universities, hospitals, and gyms can stock with fresh foods to be purchased at any time.

The fridge has a modified Android tablet with credit card reader attached to it, enabling customers to instantly swipe and pay for any items taken out of the fridge. They don’t even have to enter in what they took — using RFID technology, Pantry’s fridge detects what was taken out and automatically charges the card that was swiped.

In places like hospitals, which are open 24 hours but only have a cafeteria open for about a third of that time, Pantry offers up a fresh alternative to pre-packaged and less healthy foods currently available in most vending machines.

Since it knows when different food items were placed into the fridge, it can ensure the freshness of the goods sold. It also tracks inventory to let people know when items need to be restocked or replaced.

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Industry News & Opinion

Just over 100 foodservice workers at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have voted to join a branch of the Service Employees International Union, KIMT reports.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota said that 89% of the ballots cast during last week’s election were in favor of unionizing.

The workers are employed by Sodexo, Mayo Clinic’s current foodservice vendor. The clinic recently announced plans to switch vendors to Morrison Healthcare Food Services, a move that has sparked backlash from workers and led to a lawsuit from the SEIU .

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The Los Angeles Unified School District has lifted its ban on flavored milk in an effort to reduce food waste, the Los Angeles Times reports.

After implementing the ban in 2011, the district noticed that many students would simply throw away their unused milk containers, causing them to end up in landfills. In order to combat the problem, the district’s board is launching a four-part study in 21 schools that will examine different ways to encourage kids to drink more plain milk.

One of the theories proposed is that students will be more likely to drink plain milk if they...

Industry News & Opinion

As Harvard University’s dining staff strike continues , the school has added an extra $25 to student accounts, providing more flexibility for students to eat outside of the dining halls, The Harvard Crimson reports.

The extra funds were added to Crimson Cash and BoardPlus accounts, which students can use to pay for food both on and off campus.

Aside from some technical issues with payment processing, students are grateful for the extra money, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Since the strike began two weeks ago, students have complained about food quality in the...

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