Vietnam's "Rice ATMs" To Become Permanent
Jun 28, 2020

The set-up of automatic dispensing machine providing free rice in Vietnam – originally a measure to help jobless people during the Covid-19 crisis – is now going to become a permanent instalment in the country to make life easier for the poor.

The so-called “rice ATMs” have been installed starting in April by Vietnamese entrepreneur Hoang Tuan Anh in Ho Chi Minh City and later on in Hanoi, Hue, Da Nang and in the Mekong Delta. Overall, there are about a dozen currently in operation.

The ATMs, which provide between 1.5 and two kilogrammes of rice for free at a time, have become so popular that Anh intends building more of them around Vietnam, the BBC reported.

Rice is stored in large barrels or tanks and funneled through pipes to the dispenser. When a person presses a button on the “rice ATM,” a volunteer gets an alert on their phone and releases the rice.

Anh’s first machine in Ho Chi Minh City’s densely-populated central Tan Phu district gave out five tonnes of rice in the first two days of operation. So far, the machines have dispensed around 3,000 tonnes of rice across the country, he said, according to the report.

Around 1,000 sponsors joined the free-rice initiative

Anh, who runs a smart home service company and has shouldered the cost of the fee rice initiative alone in the beginning, has now found up to 1,000 sponsors and intends to increase the number of “rice ATMs” in the country to 100 and operate them on a permanent basis.

While many in the Vietnam can rely on a social safety-net, and the government has introduced a stimulus package designed to help society’s most vulnerable during the virus pandemic, still many people are living on the margin.

Anh told state media he wanted people to feel they still had access to food and resources, despite the current economic difficulties they found themselves in.

“I refer to this machine as a ‘rice ATM’ because people can withdraw rice from it and be assured that there are still good people out there who want to give them a second chance,” he said.