The newest natural summer snack sensation is also helping people with disabilities earn livings.

The sweet potato is a staple of Japanese cuisine, and from autumn through winter a grilled sweet potato is a widely loved warm snack. A lot of shops sell them, but the most charming way to get one is by the trucks driven by old men who sing an enchanting little song about how delicious they are.

▼ Granted, “enchanting” is a very subjective opinion, but I find it soothing for some reason

That’s not always the case, however. Sometimes these piping hot potatoes comes from guys in cat costumes or a decked out Mad Max looking town car, and for those in the South Western area of Miyazaki Prefecture, people can now acquire one from a vending machine.

These aren’t ordinary grilled sweet potatoes though. They’re chilled, making them more suited for the hot summer months rather than chilly winter nights where hot sweet potatoes are enjoyed. They say the chilling process brings out more of the sweetness too.

Of course, potatoes are not naturally ideal for vending machine use as they are irregularly shaped and have different centers of gravity. To address this inherent flaw, each potato is packed into a can to ensure a smooth drop. The cans also have the added benefit of keeping the yellow boxes from turning into “chilled weevil vending machines” by keeping out pests.

The convenience of a grilled, chilled, and canned potato can be yours for 300 yen (US$2.82), and people are flocking to get one from one of the 11 machines located around Hyuga and Nobeoka cities in Miyazaki Prefecture.  

This is great news for Medaka Family Group, a support center for disabled people in Miyazaki which manages and stocks the machines. From growing the sweet potatoes to packaging, the entire production of these automatic tubers is handled by people who might otherwise have trouble finding work.

▼ Who said sweet potatoes never solved anything?

And thanks to the strong sales, those responsible for cultivation have seen their incomes grow by an average of 4,000 yen ($38) a month since the machines began in May. This demand is showing no signs of slow either as in one month alone the machines move a total of 1,500 sweet potatoes.

You wouldn’t think that biting into a sweet potato was such a great way to beat the summer heat, but the figures don’t lie. And not only do they help those less fortunate, but these machines once again prove that pretty much anything, from handmade gyoza to Tenga is machine-vendable.

Source: TV Asahi News
Featured image: Twitter/@j_tuzk
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