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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Consumers and operators alike often associate seasonal desserts with pumpkin pie, gingerbread and candy canes—after all, winter is a season closely associated with indulgence.

But after the winter holidays, when people are hitting the gym and holding themselves to New Year’s Resolution diets, desserts don’t get as much attention. For operators, this can mean a lag in sales of sweets—but it’s not a lost cause. Updating springtime dessert menus to reflect the change in what diners are looking for can generate excitement and boost...

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Sidney Central School District in Sidney, N.Y., has received $58,783 from the state to improve its farm-to-school program, The Daily Star reports.

The grant will be used to aid in appointing a farm-to-school coordinator and assistant who will help source local farm products for 10 districts in the region for NY Thursday, an initiative where cafeterias attempt to serve meals made entirely by local ingredients every Thursday.

The funding is part of a $12 million award spread among 12 districts throughout the state by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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