June 21, 2024

Growing a new approach for kai security

In a time of intense socio-economic hardship and growing reliance on food support, local organisations play a pivotal role in leading collaborative and innovative approaches to build food security and resilience.

Based in West Auckland, Seed 2 Harvest is a well-established food relief organisation that services all people, predominantly Māori and Pacific.  Since 2020, Seed 2 Harvest has acted with agility to meet the growing food needs of the community facing high levels of food insecurity, heightened through recent events including the Covid pandemic, natural disasters, the cost-of-living crisis and an increased dependency on food parcels. 

“The need to address food insecurity is particularly high for the community we work with,” explains Seed 2 Harvest Operations Manager, Litara Faresa. “In 2023 our main clients were Māori (51.7%), and Pacific (45.6%). In 2024 we have had to pivot and make significant changes within the organisation to continue the work we do. As an organisation who are sensitive and responsive to our clients’ cultural needs, we are in a position to be change-makers in how we improve outcomes for our community.”

With the support of Healthy Families Waitākere, Seed 2 Harvest has been focused on changing the transactional nature of food parcels to provide a more comprehensive service which encourages client participation.

“By doing this, we will ensure our people can become better equipped to provide for themselves and their whānau, build social connections and cohesion, while also re-engaging with traditional kai practices and their whakapapa,” adds Faresa.

“It will also encourage their capabilities and confidence in taking steps towards their own independence, including financial security and more stable living conditions.”

Seed 2 Harvest had previously been operating solely on increasing access to food sources for vulnerable West Auckland whānau – through storage and distribution of food parcels. This alone is insufficient to tackle food insecurity for people in the community, explains Michele Eickstaedt, Systems Innovator with Healthy Families Waitākere.

“In late 2022, Healthy Families Waitākere worked with Seed 2 Harvest to capture their thinking around the shift from food relief into more mana enhancing and sustainable practices to support families.

“Supporting the systems change away from the transactional nature of food parcels has been multilayered, focused around exploring, testing and establishing an alternative supply of kai for whānau, ultimately helping to create pathways that can be replicated for people to move away from food parcel dependency,” explains Eickstaedt.

At the beginning of 2023, Seed 2 Harvest secured the lease for a new hub in the heart of Henderson, signalling an exciting new direction for the organisation.  The Henderson location is now home to an established māra (food garden), with additional garden sites also being investigated in collaboration with other West Auckland organisations. This is being supported alongside strong partnerships with churches, schools and community groups that have existing connections to Māori and Pacific communities.

A funding application with a strong emphasis on the Mana Motuhake o te kai framework was made to the Ministry of Social Development’s Puta Ora Food Security Fund, and was successful in achieving much needed funding to expand Seed 2 Harvest’s focus.

Recent recruitment of a new dedicated Kaitiaki Kai Māra Coordinator, Elmma Richmond, has also been instrumental.  This has helped with further development of the māra, underpinned by a focus on fostering an indigenous approach to developing food resilience and aligning with the Mana Motuhake o te Kai framework.  There has been a growing focus on integrating Pacific models of wellbeing into the approach and Seed 2 Harvest has also been working in partnership with Pacific Vision Aotearoa to achieve this. 

Late last year, Seed 2 Harvest was accepted for Auckland Council’s Grow to Share programme.

“This provides resourcing for up to 10-15 families to receive soil, seedlings, composting bins and support to grow kai,” explains Faresa. “Alongside this, Seed 2 Harvest will also receive the same resourcing so that they can grow and share kai, practices, and knowledge with other church members and groups. The Grow to Share workshops have commenced and is an exciting time and a welcome change for the families.”

The Seed 2 Harvest māra is now flourishing and kai is being harvested and added to food parcels.

“Throughout this process we have explored learnings from other alternative kai trading initiatives, such as local fruit and vegetable pop-ups and social supermarkets. This has supported fine tuning the thinking towards more mana enhancing practices to access free food from their hub,” explains Eickstaedt.

“Families are now collecting parcels from the food hub; it is a welcome change and it is an opportunity to korero and talanoa with many families. At some point there is an aim to allow families to select the items they need rather than pre-packed food boxes, similar to a social supermarket. Families will also be invited to pay it forward with koha or donate their time to contribute in other ways at the food hub – such as helping at the māra,” adds Eickstaedt.

Looking ahead, Seed 2 Harvest continues to build relationships with key partners to evolve next steps, including initiatives like a composting hub and adding more workshops to support their families’ journey into a more sustainable way of living.