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Company introduces salad-based vending machines to Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – New salad-based vending machines are beginning to pop up around Indianapolis as a Chicago-based company expands its territory.

"We're the world’s smallest restaurant," said Syed Shah, who is the Head of Expansion for Farmer's Fridge.

"We provide breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks... all through this automated fridge in 15 square feet.”

A recent study claims that one to three Hoosiers are now considered obese and environments at work and school play a factor.

Finding fresh food that's also convenient during a busy lifestyle is a tough task.

“I think I’m gonna go with this North Napa Salad,” said Brandon Borah as he clicked on the touch screen found on the new Farmer's Fridge vending machine at Salesforce Tower. The high-rise is one of the first locations to house a Farmer's Fridge in the city. The vending machines were previously only found in Chicago and Milwaukee.

During his lunch break, Borah usually doesn't have too much time to spend looking for a good meal, especially when stopping at a vending machine.

"Typically it’s hard to find something that’s really healthy,” Borah said. That's where the idea for the salad centered vending machine was born.

"Our biggest mission is to make eating healthy as easy as eating a candy bar,” said Shah.

Farmer’s Fridge makes all of its food fresh daily in its Chicago kitchen, and then ships the food to its vending machines overnight.

"We started out five years ago as primarily a salad company," Shah said. "Today we have salads, heatable jars, things like mac and cheese, sandwiches, soups.”

"This idea of having a fresh salad, fresh fruit with a parfait vending machine is kind of a revolutionary idea,” said St. Vincent dietitian Anna Busenburg.

While she warns people to double check the calories of their salad, especially when adding dressing, she said the freshness of the food typically beats out processed foods found in most vending machines.

"The really awesome thing is that it's providing people with a vegetable and fruit source that they probably wouldn't be grabbing otherwise,” Busenburg said.

According to a recent study from the Richard M. Fairbanks foundation, 90 percent of Hoosiers aren’t eating enough vegetables. That's why a vending machine with fruit and salad is a big deal.

"Having those options available is great because you're getting, especially from the salads, vegetables,” Busenburg said.

The fridge inside of Salesforce is one of the city’s first, but the company plans to add them to places like the airport, Circle Centre mall, PNC Center and about 15 other locations around town.

Since the food is made fresh daily, there tends to be a lot of leftovers. The company says all the food that isn't purchased by the end of the day is donated to local shelters.

"We work with Gleaners, so it’s going to be donated throughout the area here in Indianapolis, which is awesome,” Shah said.

The company plans to have 20 machines up and running by May 6, with hopes of having 40-50 Indianapolis machines by the end of the year.

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