If you associate vending machines with sugary fizzy drinks and waist-expanding food, think again. The growing appetite for healthier snacks and on-the-go food has opened up a new market catering for the health-conscious and environmentally aware. Now an entrepreneur in the American Midwest has raised the bar further with Farmer’s Fridge health food kiosks.

Recently launched in the Chicago area, Farmer’s Fridge is the brainchild of Luke Sanders, who has a background in manufacturing. The menu includes freshly made salads and snacks for both omnivores (who can find chicken, tuna, salmon and egg among the protein options) and vegans, who can eat everything else.

The automated kiosks combine rustic looks with a digital interface. They are wrapped in reclaimed barn wood from Modern Urban Woods of West Chicago, and interaction takes place through touch-screen technology. It also features bar code scanners, a credit card terminal and email receipts.

The machines contain an on-site recycling bin for empty plastic salad containers. Users can buy several products at once, and no food goes wasted as unsold salads are donated to a local food pantry.

The contents of the fridge are prepared daily in a kitchen in Chicago and delivered by 10am to each kiosk. Using organic ingredients from local farms whenever possible and in compliance with Environmental Working Group guidelines for using organic ingredients, the menu includes a combination of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, plant and animal protein to meet a wide range of nutritional needs and tastes. It is also SPE Certified, which guarantees nutritional value and taste.

The meals come in recycled, BPA- and Phthalate-free plastic jars that make eating easy in any kind of setting. The unit is also energy-efficient – the company says it requires less than US$10 of energy per month.

"While I was traveling all over the Midwest, I realized that the grab-and-go options were not great and it was really hard to eat healthy. Then when I was on my sales calls, I was seeing machines do much more innovative functions than sell food. As a result, I think it was easy for me to conceptualize the idea for a machine to sell fresh and healthy food," Lukas tells Gizmag.

Farmer’s Fridge is part of a new generation of vending machines that offer off-the-beaten-track products, from cupcakes in Beverly Hills to gourmet foodand even golf lessons.

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