Sally The Salad Robot Debuts In Hospital Lobby

By Carol Kugler Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Sally the salad robot dispenses three types of greens and 16 different toppings -- from edamame to shredded carrots to croutons -- into a bowl.

Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.

Sally the robot never closes.

That's what the sign telling staff, patients and visitors to IU Health Bloomington Hospital will see on posters telling them there's a new way to get a nutritious meal at the hospital -- from a 3-foot-by-3-foot machine that creates salads.

Thursday was Sally's first day at her location on the hospital's first floor between the two main entrances and next to the coffee cafe.

Sally the salad robot dispenses three types of greens and 16 different toppings -- from edamame to shredded carrots to croutons -- into a bowl.

People can choose from seven ready-made salads that range in calorie counts from 210 to 500, or they can craft their own using the ingredients available. When an item is chosen to go into a salad, Sally displays its calories so people will know the total calories they're getting. In the first 24 hours, bacon was the favorite ingredient.

"We struggle with this place up here," said Becky Amt, director of food and nutrition services, talking about the first floor where staff, patients and visitors are often too busy to visit the hospital cafeteria on the ground floor.

Now Sally offers a healthful first-floor food option all day, every day.

The salad ingredients are prepared by the hospital's food services staff, so they are clean, fresh and don't have the cross-contamination or food safety issues found at some salad bars.

The ingredients are in a temperature-controlled environment; if the temperature is too high, the machine shuts down. When containers of ingredients are getting low, Sally notifies the food services staff by email.

Cost of a bowl is $6.99, payable only by credit card.

After Sally has been serving salads for a while, Amt said, the hospital will look at the data and possibly swap out some of the less-used ingredients for others. She said eggs are so far unavailable.

Hasti Afsarifard, customer success manager with Chowbotics, the company that produced Sally, said eggs are currently in the testing phase at the company's California headquarters.

Afsarifard said having Sally in IU Health Bloomington Hospital is exciting for the company because it's the first such robot in a hospital and one of the first that's open to the public 24/7.

"It's really a big deal for us," Afsarifard said.

The first Sally robot was created about four years ago by Deepah Sekar, an inventor and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, to help feed his family after late nights at work. That Sally actually served Indian food.

Now, Sally robots serve salads, bowls and breakfast parfaits. Most of the 50 Sallys around the U.S. are available for staff of specific companies, airport personnel or college students, Afsarifard said.

The only other Sally in Indiana was installed about a month ago in a Greenwood-area restaurant.

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