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New smart vending machine in Ottawa revolutionizes access to essential supplies


A first-of-its-kind vending machine is changing the way people access essential supplies in Ottawa.

Located at the Carlington Community Health Centre, 'Our Healthbox' offers a wide range of supplies, from naloxone to socks, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Sara Carrillo, Communications Coordinator at Carlington CHC, says it has been a great addition to the health centre. 

"It is to reduce the barrier that a lot of the community members have when it comes to accessing different supplies," Carrillo says. "It dispenses different sexual health supplies, harm reduction supplies. We have some seasonal items like socks, gloves, and some food supplies."

Since its launch on Oct. 25, the 'Our Healthbox' has already made a significant impact, distributing approximately 150 supplies to 50 users. The most requested item, surprisingly, has been granola bars. 

"Yeah, it's granola bars," says Cassandra Racicot, an Intake and Crisis Counsellor at Carlington CHC. “Clients are loving that we have food accessible for them. It's not just folks who are using drugs. It's folks that are diabetic, folks that have health needs, folks that are unhoused that would need to have food."

To ensure a steady supply of essential items, the 'Our Healthbox' is closely monitored by software within the health centre, and it is restocked daily to meet the community's needs.

This innovative vending machine was developed by SMRT1 Technologies, based in British Columbia. Brad Pommen, CEO of SMRT1, explains, "We created technology about seven years ago, and we've been trying a number of different categories, and healthcare has been one of the big opportunities that was ready for kind of a disruption."

The concept of transforming vending machines into Healthboxes originated from the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions based in Toronto. Dr. Sean Rourke, Our Healthbox creator, says providing people a way to access their own supplies helps them avoid any stigma attached to certain items.

"Giving people access to the most low-barrier way to what they need to take care of their health. Everybody in Canada should have what they need to take care of their health. And that doesn't always happen. And so we're fixing that."

Anyone age 16 or older has access to the box and all products dispensed by are free. No personal information is required. Top Stories

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