Innovation in the Face of Growing Need: A “Solidarity Machine?”

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December 10, 2013; The Guardian

On a street in Madrid, next to a church, you will find a so-called “solidarity machine.” Passersby can use it as one would a vending machine, but for charity—inserting their change and choosing from 24 food items. The machine spits out a little box that shows what has been purchased, but the boxes are empty, because the food is going to the food bank.

“People walking by stop and stare. It looks like we have a tobacco vending machine sitting next to a church,” said Adrián Gutiérrez. “Most of them laugh when they find it what it’s all about. Then they want to try it out.”

The machine is the result of a brainstorming (no bad ideas) session. “We’re right in the middle of one of Madrid’s main shopping streets, so people aren’t likely to be carrying food they can donate,” Gutiérrez said. “It’s something new, something different, to get people excited about donating.”

It is estimated that three million Spaniards live in severe poverty, as compared to 2007, when it was half that number, and food banks are having problems staying stocked.—Ruth McCambridge