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-footby-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.