Food ATM: Revolutionizing providing food to refugees


At food distribution points in refugee camps, food is often lost, mishandled, or wasted by the time refugees receive it. Refugees usually lack proper storage systems for the food they receive which exposes them to disease and sickness as food is not kept properly. Refugees are also vulnerable to theft as food distributions take place at a regular time and at the same place. Food is mainly procured internationally which results in high costs for the assisting organizations.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and World Vision (WVI) joined forces to come up with an innovative, cost-effective, and localized approach to solving these challenges and, in turn, boosting local economies, local supply chain, and local capacities, while reducing the carbon footprint of assistance.

WHAT is it?

The Food ATM (Automated Teller Machine) is an automated food dispensary at refugee camp distribution points. The machines contain food commodities which are locally procured. Food will no longer need to be transported in bulk from another country or continent, nor will it need to be packaged and repackaged on-site or distributed by scooping or similar method. Essentially, the Food ATM provides continuous, monitored commodities in an on-demand solution. With the Food ATM, refugees take a shopping cart into a clean, cool warehouse where each machine contains a specific food item. They swipe their SCOPE card and select the amount of food they want and able to carry and store at home. The machines will be maintained and filled by local people trained by WFP and WVI experts.

WHO will it help?

This innovative intervention directly benefits refugees.
They will be able to make independent decisions on when and how much food to take from the Food ATM. An on-demand distribution method better ensures their safety as it will be more difficult for robbers to predict when they will retrieve food. It also contributes to increased nutritional intake due to decreased food loss and less chance of food waste or rotting.

The Food ATM also benefits the host Government through creation of local markets via local sourcing, improved position of local retailers, and local employment through training of Quality Control staff.

Through this new way of working and specifically through local sourcing of food commodities, implementing organizations such as WFP will have immense cost savings along the supply chain and a reduced carbon footprint to the environment.