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Food-ATM supports industries by catering to their low-waged employees through the innovative Food-ATM card. These unique cards are given free of charge to every employee, hold a set number of meals that can be redeemed at their workplace once they receive the meal.
The affordability and the delivery of the meals contribute to the ‘No poverty and Zero hunger’ SDGs. The nutritional value and the quantity of the meals provided contribute to the ‘Good health and well-being’ SDG. The utilization of the Food-ATM cards ensures that meals are produced exactly as needed with no excess or wastages which contributes to the ‘Responsible Consumption & Production’ SDG.
The innovation behind Food-ATM resides not only within its unique smart card system but also its cost leadership strategy that is based on buying the ingredients in bulk, producing them in mass quantities, and delivering them with a just-in-time method. Smart cards facilitate the delivery and payment process. The smart cards work like ATM cards, containing information such as employee identification, name, department, site assigned, and the number of meals that are prepaid by the worker or by the workers’ company. When employees utilize their Food-ATM card to redeem their meal during the daily dispensary, the data is automatically updated on the Food-ATM online application. This would keep the track of the meals redeemed per employee to ensure that meals are fairly and equally provided.
The innovation emerged out of the need to have a controlled mechanism that facilitates the dispensary of thousands of meals daily. Since its inception, Food-ATM’s objective has been to feed the labor workforce in the region. Needless to say, with such a huge volume of work on hand, any errors could potentially mean leaving someone hungry and disrupting the operation.
Ayesha Khan along with a strong motivated IT Team has immensely contributed to this social business. The team provides support to all the creative expectations of the Food-ATM Smart-Cards. They program the online application and the physical Smart-Cards, including the design and functionality. The IT team is always ready to help when there is a need for customization or technical support.
By providing meals for as low as 3 AED (0.82 USD) and delivering the meals to the employees’ workplace, Food-ATM aims to tackle the No poverty and Zero hunger SDGs as the affordability of the meals allows employees to retain more of their salary. Furthermore, the meals provide generous portions to ensure that every meal would keep the employees well-fed, contributing to their health, and well-being. Moreover, the records kept through the online application which is linked to the Food-ATM Smart Cards will always reflect the exact quantity of food that need to be produced. Consequently, food will always be produced in the right amount to prevent food waste, which directly contributes to the Responsible Consumption & Production SDG. Finally, given the nature of the Food-ATM business, the company interacted and partnered with several local businesses. They now work interdependently which contributes to the Partnerships for the Goals.
The idea of the Food ATM started years ago, after working under a lot of pressure at work Ayesha Khan use to go home and cook for her family as her daily routine. Cooking was always Ms. Khan's enjoyment and her stress relief. Since the food that she used to cook was in big quantities, the family used to consume a little and she was taking the rest to her workplace and giving them to the workers. Ms. Khan received a lot of positive feedback from employees, this motivated her to do what she loves most: cooking and helping others.
She said, "One day an [employee] came to my office and showed me a picture of his kids wearing their school uniforms. My co-worker told that I was the reason his children could go to school. He explained that he could save money that he used to spend on his daily meals, since he was eating my meals every day, he managed to save and was able to send his children to school.”
Ms. Khan was inspired by her co-worker's story, she gained a deeper appreciation on important her meals became and that every penny they save was changing their lives to the best over the years.
The people she helped and how their life has improved over the course of 12 years, pushed her forward to establish Food-ATM. The innovation of the Food-ATM gave them the ideal meals full of health and nutritional value, to make sure they get their daily meals on time with very low cost and by ensuring good health and wellbeing for everyone. Ms. Khan states “giving confidence of food security in each [ ] person’s pocket”.
Ms. Khan mentioned that each month they have sessions with employees from different companies that they are associated with. During these meetups, Ms. Khan and her team ask questions regarding their feedback on food and what they like to be changed. During these sessions, employees also share their stories about their families and how Food-ATM has had a very positive impact in helping them financially through food savings. These are the short-term impact. Some examples that Ms. Khan mentioned was about an employee who was able to afford his son's tuition fees and another one who had the financial capability of fixing the ceiling of his house back in his home.
Food-ATM not only plays a role in people’s lives that can help them to achieve their long-term plans and tackles various SDGs as mentioned earlier. Through their contracts with various businesses and organizations, they oversee the detailed data about the number of workers and the number of meals being supplied to them. They also have a regular collection of data that proves the impact being done on these employees.
As the Food ATME idea is scalable, the founder would like to enhance the impact to other countries and regions to improve the lives of low-waged employees by introducing the business model to other entrepreneurs. Ms. Khan is an idealist and a pioneer, she has already received awards from the Government Chamber of Commerce and has regular visits from the CSR and the municipality throughout the year aiming to increase the impact of the movement through different channels.
Food-ATM is doing business with both B2C and B2B levels. Food-ATM sells its meals directly to individual customers who are engaged in their low-cost program. Those customers, mostly low-waged laborers deposit their money in the Food-ATM card and purchase the 3 DHS meals independently for a month. Food-ATM also signs contracts with the businesses to provide three meals a day for their low-waged employees. The company either pays the full amount (3 AED, 0.82 USD, per meal per employee that they are willing to support) and the employee pay nothing for the food for the rest of the month or the company pays half of the meals, in that case, the employee pays the other half to get the monthly meals All workers scan their Food-ATM card and receive their food without paying anything.
Food-ATM gives the companies and employees peace of mind about their food security for the rest of the month. In an average labor camp, almost 4,000 men are cramped with at most ten kitchens, meaning that they had to struggle in crowded kitchens to cook one meal and reach the bus on time. This often leads to accidents and employees being late to the bus and late to the worksite and a loss of productivity. This leads to a cut in their monthly salary and a decrease in the company's overall effectiveness. With Food-ATM services, the employees are not late anymore and are more time-efficient because their food is delivered to them at the construction site. This creates a more relaxed mindset for both employees and employers because they don’t have to worry about what to eat and a cut in their already low wages due to delays. This eventually increases their morals, reduces potential accidents in the kitchen due to fights and crowdedness, the overall productivity would increase because they become confident that Food-ATM delivers them good quality and nutritious food.
Food-ATM helped to decrease the number of Covid-19 cases at work sites during the Covid 19 pandemic by reducing the number of people and crowdedness in the kitchens by offering to disrepute food at the sites. This means that the employees will not have to cook, thus maintaining the government's social distancing protocols.
Moreover, due to the pandemic, many small and medium-sized businesses have struggled and could not get any work or source of income for many months due to the halt of the entire economy. Some businesses closed which left many employees unable to buy their food.
Food ATM's food price is low compared to the outside restaurants and cafeterias. This led many organizations to approach them, especially during the pandemic, to help minimize their expenses.
Food-ATM is in the industrial region in Ajman and is surrounded by at least 5,000 labors who are working minimum wage jobs. Of those 5,000 nearly 800 of them were unemployed because of the pandemic and had no source of income. Along with its regular business activities, Food ATM also supported some free meals for the workers who are suffering during the COVID pandemic.
Due to the positive word of mouth that Food-ATM gained over the years, especially in the food industry, they were able to acquire and channel donations from many organizations. Food-ATM facilitated those donations efficiently and was able to feed the 800 unemployed people three meals per day for a year. By doing so, Food-ATM was able to meet SDG number 17, which is a partnership for a goal, the goal being SDG number 2 which is zero hunger, and the main goal which is to support people in need.
In addition to the business and societal impact, Food-ATM helped decrease environmental harm and protect their environment. Food ATM works with the bulk purchase of near expiration which prevents. This was accomplished by the decision of the responsible production and zero-waste rule. When the municipally went to do their mandatory checking and tests, they found there was only water in the entire seven industrial fridges that Food-ATM has. Food-ATM explained that all the food was distributed as soon as they are cooked. With experience, Food-ATM accurately forecasted the amount of food they need to produce and their costs The impact of the company touches many lives. The business model is scalable and can be applied in other similar economies as an example.
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Ayesha Khan, Founder & Owner of Food-ATM
Food-ATM is a private, social business that provides food catering services to businesses and customers at very affordable prices. By providing meals for as low as 3 AED (0.82 USD) Food-ATM, specifically targets industries that employ numerous low-waged employees by providing them with affordable meal plans.
The goal of Food-ATM is to support industrial success in the UAE by keeping people well-fed. By providing affordable meal plans, Food-ATM aims to support the at-need communities by providing them with affordable, healthy food. By doing so, Food-ATM hopes to ease the financial burden of employees and help them save up on their salaries, which they mostly send to their families back home. Consequently, employees would be well-fed, energetic, and have better well-being.
Food-ATM is working towards expansion in various regions to help as many people as they can.