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Hungry kids of South Whidbey win with new handy automat | NOTABLE
A new automatic vending machine was recently installed at South Whidbey Commons to house the healthy food offered by Whidbey Island Nourishes.
A partnership between Whidbey Island Nourishes (WIN) and the South Whidbey Commons feeds young people, while also empowering them to support themselves through job training at the Commons coffeehouse.
For nearly five years, hungry youths and adults have benefitted from free meals and healthy snacks that WIN volunteers have prepared and placed in a refrigerator located behind the South Whidbey Commons Coffeehouse Bookstore. Meanwhile, inside the building, students and adults have participated in a workplace training program that makes them better candidates for further education or employment elsewhere.
The Commons constructed an addition to its building into which WIN installed a refurbished, automat-style vending machine that dispenses food to those in need.
“We transitioned from a residential-style fridge to a vending machine to improve food safety,” says Miriam Coates, director of programs for WIN.
“To minimize waste, the machine offers healthy à la carte items that enable people to make their own selections.”
The vending machine was made possible by a grant from the Paul Glaser Foundation and the alcove was partially funded by Walt Blackburn, who hosted a free showing of “The Wizard of Oz” at the Clyde Theater on his 60th birthday and encouraged attendees to donate toward the alcove’s construction. Construction materials were donated by Hanson’s Building Supply, Jim Shelver and John Clark. A volunteer team pitched in to build the alcove, designed by volunteer architect Ross Chapin.
“This is a safe place for kids to come,” said Shelver.
“Here, they have the privacy to accept the gift of free food with dignity.”
“We’re excited about this transition,” adds Coates. “The site here at the Commons is ideal. They were our first partnering site, and the collaboration meshes well with what we’re both trying to do: offer community support for local youths.”
The food that WIN offers is prepared by volunteers, and the vending machine is stocked with sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, string cheese, and WIN’s signature trail mix.
“People are often surprised that good nutrition tastes so good,” said Margaret Andersen, WIN’s treasurer/secretary.
“The peanut butter sandwiches are the best,” agreed one of the teenagers trying out the new vending machine.
WIN and the Commons are pleased with their collaboration and have received positive feedback about the new vending machine and its location. Although no coins are required to dispense food, the vending machine’s coin slot is set up to accept donations.
Both nonprofits encourage members of the community to get involved, volunteer, and support the island’s young people through their organizations.