Farmers Fridge: The smallest restaurant in the country celebrates 1 year in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Being able to buy healthy food from a vending machine isn’t a concept to which most can relate.

A recent report found junk food like soda and chips make up the largest amount of vending machine revenue.

But over the last five years, that revenue is declining and a company called Farmer’s Fridge could be part of the reason.

“We are a replacement for fast food or junk food vending machine options. Our mission is to make it simple for everyone to access wholesome ingredients,” said Liz Wassmann, a brand manager with Farmer’s Fridge.

The Chicago based company fills their fridges with fresh food daily. Chefs curate menu items and prices range from $4 for snacks to $8 for meals. There are also add-on options like eggs, meats and cheeses.

Residents in Indianapolis may have noticed more of these oversized refrigerators with that green neon sign popping up all over the city.

In their first year in the Circle City, Farmer’s Fridge went from 20 to 30 locations in places like Indianapolis International Airport, office buildings and area hospitals.

The company says their goal is to help people eat healthy. It’s a goal Kandice Montgomery says she can relate to.

Montgomery started her weight loss journey three years ago. She turned to running for exercise and swapped out pizza for chia seeds.

But Montgomery says keeping off the 10 pounds she lost was hard. As a patient care tech at Community East Hospital, Kandice works nights and her shift starts at 7 p.m.

“The cafeteria closes at 8 p.m. I never have time to get there and even if I do, it’s mostly fried food,” Montgomery added.

One day late last year, Montgomery saw a delivery of fresh salads making their way through the halls of the hospital, and followed the trail to the 14-square-foot Farmer’s Fridge.

“I got to talking with the delivery guy and learned it’s fresh food and not that expensive at all,” she said.

Wassmann says that while providing healthy food is the company’s mission, there have been some unexpected side effects in their first year in business.

Food is dispensed in recyclable containers that customers have come to love.

“We see people on social media doing all kinds of things. People put their flour and sugar for pantry essentials, they put kids craft supplies, they use them for snacks,” Wassmann said.

Technology helps the fridge “learn” what each location is selling most and which allows for minimal waste. Food that doesn’t sell within 48 hours is donated to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.

The company didn’t share sales from their first year in Indianapolis but did say they have been able to donate 1,500 meals in June alone.

As for Montogmery, she has kept her 10 pounds off and says now she can focus on living her life.