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HCMC Business Invents Rice ATM To Help People In Need While Letting Everyone Practice Social Distancing

“Rice ATM” in Saigon that distributes free rice goes global

We Vietnamese are more than willing to chip in to help our fellow countrymen land on their feet during these tough times. Stories of people doing their part to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and ordinary citizens offering free food for those in need are popping up all over the country.

One problem with public aid contributions, however, is that pickup points tend to attract plenty of people, which in turn increases the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Thus, a business in Hồ Chí Minh City took it up a notch and invented a “rice ATM”, allowing them to help the poor while still practicing social distancing. Now, the rice ATM has been distributed to other countries too.

Update 18th May 2020: The Rice ATM has gone global

In the span of over a month since we first published this story when the first rice ATM was installed, the model has garnered massive interest both domestically and internationally. Many charitable individuals across Vietnam have followed in Mr. Tuấn Anh’s footsteps and set up their own rice ATMs in several provinces.

Mr. Tuấn Anh’s will to help those in need is not contained within the Vietnamese border, either. Wanting to lend a helping hand to people from neighboring countries as well, he contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a proposal to gift units of this rice ATM to other countries. Understandably, he was welcomed with open arms.

“Tuấn Anh’s creative rice ATM is a respectable act. Therefore, we approved his proposal immediately. It would mean a lot if the disadvantaged in other Southeast Asian countries could receive the love that those in Vietnam have”, a representative from the Ministry told

Thanks to the Ministry’s help, Mr. Tuấn Anh’s wish has been realized. On 11th May, 4 of his rice ATMs were gifted to Cambodia, and the model is set to expand to East Timor later this month.

man receiving award
Mr. Hoàng Tuấn Anh (Right) presented 4 rice ATMs to a representative from Cambodia.

Image credit:

Made by a Vietnamese company

PHGLock, a smart-lock company in Vietnam, has made headlines since it installed a device capable of automatically dispensing rice in front of its office at number 204B Vườn Lài Str., Hồ Chí Minh City for everybody to use if they need some rice for the day.

Users simply need to press a button to get free rice
Image credit: Dân Trí

The machine, which is monitored remotely by the Vietnamese company’s staff 24/7, consists of an active button and a pipe connected to a rice container. The user simply has to press the button to notify the staff, and 1.5KG of rice will be dispensed through the pipe. Surprisingly, nobody needs to show personal ID or any proof of need to use the machine that works on a trust system.
Still, in order to prevent people from exploiting the system, a camera is installed on the side for the staff to view the users. That way, they can make sure that nobody uses the machine too many times.

Helping the community while letting people maintain safe distances from each other

A camera is installed so that the monitoring staff can make sure the rice goes to the right people
Image credit: Dân Trí

Mr Hoàng Tuấn Anh, the man behind the idea, told Dân Trí, “Since the machine operates 24/7, people don’t have to come here during a specific time window. This means we’ll be able to avoid big crowds.”

In front of the machine, the company has also marked white squares 2M apart for people to stand in while queueing, ensuring that they maintain a safe distance from one another.

People in queue standing in white squares 2M apart to maintain a safe distance from one another
Image credit: Dân Trí

The system has been operating since yesterday and has so far distributed 300KG of rice to over 200 people in need.

Mr Tuấn Anh’s goal is to have 100 machines like these installed all over Hồ Chí Minh City, and he is calling for donors to contribute rice and funds to the project.

Charitable acts during COVID-19

While this is a tough time for all of us, it is important to remember that there are less fortunate people out there who are just struggling just to put food on their table. Acts of kindness like these go a long way in making sure that we can all pull through the ordeal together.

For more COVID-19 stories, check out:

Cover image adapted from: Dân Trí

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