Ready-to-eat meal vending machines are coming to campus in the new year

UBC will be installing two new ready-to-eat meal vending machines in the new year, a result of the university’s partnership with UpMeals, a Vancouver-based food technology company.

The two machines will be located in the Sauder School of Business’s Henry Angus Building and in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKB).

Drew Munro, UpMeals CEO and co-founder, described the vending machines as “a giant iPhone strapped to the front of a beautiful vending machine.” He said the vending machines will contain a range of healthy meals, and will have a selection screen that provides the meals’ nutritional and ingredient information.

The machines will stock 20–25 products at a time, ranging from entree bowls to healthy snacks. The meals are to be made using “minimally processed real food ingredients” that include “local ingredients whenever possible.” Colin Moore, director of Food Services, said UBC Food Services will be working with UpMeals to determine the menu to ensure “these are about not just convenience, but healthy, nutritious, affordable food options.”

The price of these meals will vary depending on the option. Munro expects entrees to cost roughly 12 to 15 dollars, while entree bowls or salads would be 8 to 11 dollars. Wraps and other treats would be available for less.

Overall, Munro said that it will be “significantly more cost-effective than competing options through meal delivery apps or restaurants.” The price of the meals is comparable to prices in UBC residence dining halls.

Students unsure if they would use the vending machines

Students expressed mixed reviews of the new vending machines. Tara Dodig, a first-year student in the faculty of land and food systems, called it “great” that “students are able to get a healthy meal at any given time of the day or the night.”

However, the location of the machines brought up some concerns.

Dodig said that despite the vending machines being marketed as accessible 24/7, IKB closes at 11 p.m. Moore said that building operation hours would in fact limit access to the machines, despite the vending machine itself running 24/7.

Devishi Mehra, a first-year student in the faculty of arts, said that since she lives in residence, the locations are fairly inconvenient for her. “I would probably just eat at the dining hall,” she said.

Munro expressed interest in putting vending machines in student housing, the Museum of Anthropology and other places on campus.

But these two initial locations are a trial, according to UBC. Moore said there are currently no plans to have these put anywhere else.