Vending machines selling milk, cheese, meat and other staples are helping to #feedthenation and keep people safe during the coronavirus lockdown.
At a time when person-to-person contact must be kept to a minimum, vending machines selling produce directly from farms are coming into their own, offering 24-hour service and card-only payments.
Dairy farmers Matthew and Coral Senior are working hard to supply organic milk directly to the local community in south Somerset via three 24-hour vending machines located at North Perrott Farm Shop, John Bright Country Store near Salwayash, Bridport, Dorset, and Odcombe Village Hall near Yeovil, Somerset.
See also: Map: Where to buy milk direct from farm
The service also has an environmental benefit, as customers are filling reusable glass bottles, creating less plastic waste.
Their Holy Cow Organic milk is simply pasteurised, cooled and ready to drink, so there is no heavy processing and no food miles. It costs £1.30 per litre and is never more than 48 hours old.
The machines are cleaned at least four times a day and customers are also offered hand sanitisers. Strict social distancing measures are in place, on a one-in, one-out basis.
“A lot of local shops have closed in our area, so we started the vending machines over 12 months ago to bring a little bit more to the community,” said Mr Senior.
“They have fallen on their feet since the coronavirus. People who have been self-isolating can just pop out and buy a few staples without having to travel very far.”
Fen Farm Dairy, in Bungay, Suffolk, has been operating vending machines at the farmgate since 2011.
Dairy farmer Jonny Crickmore said the machines have been a huge success and sales had trebled since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. He is now having to restock the machines often twice daily and also operates a one-in, one-out policy.
Raw milk coffee
Their raw milk coffee machine is brewing 24/7. “It’s completely self-service and there’s hand sanitiser for you to use. Plus our cups are totally compostable,” said Mr Crickmore.
The farm also sells raw milk and butter, its own Brie-style Baron Bigod cheese, produced from raw milk from the farm’s Montbeliarde cows, bread and meat.
Panic buying led to supermarket shortages of eggs, especially at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. But farmers have been able to meet demand by selling eggs from the farm gate.
Gate Farm Eggs, based in Flowton, Ipswich, Suffolk, says their vending machines selling free range eggs are now in constant use.
Being open “from dusk until dawn” allows key workers to purchase eggs after shifts from a safe environment, which also poses no threat to staff.
“Demand for locally-produced, good quality free range eggs is on the increase and although our gate sales have always been high, the popularity of home-baking during lockdown has meant a soar in sales recently,” said Joe Watkins, from Gate Farm Eggs.
British Lion donates eggs to NHS workers
British Lion is donating eggs to the HelpNHSHeroes initiative which provides food boxes for health service workers.
HelpNHSHeroes has been trialled in pop-up shops at two NHS hospital sites, the Lister in Stevenage and the Royal Berkshire in Reading, selling boxes to workers.
Following the successful trial, there are plans to scale up to national distribution to more than 40 hospitals across the UK.
The boxes provide meals for a family of four for two days, and cover all nutritional needs, such as protein, carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables. They will be sold on a non-profit basis for £30.
NHS staff can place a food box order for collection at the end of their shift using a phone app. Meanwhile, shift workers completing back-to-back shifts are being offered free breakfasts as part of the scheme.
Farmers Weekly is getting behind the #FeedtheNation campaign to back UK farmers working flat out to produce safe, affordable and reliable food to feed the nation during the coronavirus crisis.
With our partners, we are raising public awareness of this campaign by highlighting the actions farmers are taking to get food to consumers.