Vending Veggies and Fruits

The Wall Street Journal, fresh off this awesome piece on food waste, continued its hot streak with this article/video on produce vending machines in schools.

Unlike the traditional sweets and chips, fresh foods in vending machine provides new challenges to avoid waste. Namely, temperature and bruising.

It’d be easier if the new machines focused on whole fruits or fresh cut veggies. But since they sell both, with their differing temperature ranges, engineers have had to figure out how to keep the bananas at 57 degrees up top and carrots and celery at 34 degrees.

The solution includes keeping bananas up high, which brings bruising damage as every order requires a four or five-foot drop. Engineers created an angled wall to deflect the fall and placed cushions at the bottom.

Pretty soon, though, fruits displayed toward the top will get a luxurious ride down to the bottom in…an elevator. Hey, if grain gets elevators, why not fruit?

These new vending machines are certainly worthwhile, given the nutritional benefits. And the alternatives are frightening. But hopefully the makers will continue to work out the kinks to avoid waste. As one vending company head estimated:

I think the industry average is less than 10 percent product waste. But specific to fresh, it’s much higher than 10 percent.

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