February 2, 2023

Kai Villages are putting down roots in West Auckland

Fresh, nutritious food is one of the cornerstones of a healthy life and should equally belong to everyone in Aotearoa. But right now, many New Zealanders are locked out of accessing healthy food as prices continue to soar, and those with less material resources live in neighbourhoods with limited access to healthy food options.

Local people across the country are stepping up for their community to bridge this gap, unlocking access to healthy food options to fill bellies with nutritious food so people can lead healthy and happy lives.

In West Auckland, people in the community are taking a village approach to shorten the food supply chain and put healthy, affordable kai in the hands and bellies of local people. The Kai Villages initiative was identified by community members during the Future of Food for West Auckland Hui facilitated by Healthy Families Waitākere and the Kai West Collective partners, with funding support from the three West Auckland Local Boards.

During the workshop, the community highlighted the need for joined-up thinking on local food access and relief at times of need, as several food-related initiatives are operating in isolation in West Auckland. People identified the real opportunity lies in creating a network of food-related initiatives, with joined-up thinking to minimise overlap and utilise available resources and support. 

After initial scoping and research, the Glenavon and Massey suburbs were prioritised for Kai Villages due to their high Māori and Pacific population, alongside being a prioritised development area for Kāinga Ora.

The Glenavon Community Hub has a thriving community and has been supporting local people with food relief for some time. Food parcels and vegetable gardens are available to local people who come needing support. Its Community Hub Coordinator, RJ Thompson (Ngāpuhi), has great aspirations for the Hub’s Kai Villages initiative, weaving it through the well-established ‘My Pathways’ program.

The Hub’s My Pathways kaupapa is to inspire and empower people to lead and take ownership of their path by lifting their capabilities, breaking down barriers and getting people job-ready (if this is their goal). Kai is fundamentally weaved into this kaupapa, which is why the Glenavon Community Hub was thrilled to be expanding this work, creating a more robust kaupapa of awhi (support).

Thompson is unlocking new opportunities for the people of Glenavon, including a van that would be able to bring meals to people and working with the Glenavon School to build more garden beds to grow more fresh produce.

Similar mahi is underway in the Massey Matters Community Hub. Healthy Families Waitākere Systems Innovator, Michele Eickstaedt is working alongside both hubs to support the Kai Villages approach, providing guidance with funding, networking, and facilitation. Eickstaedt continues.

“Community Hubs are a hive of awhi and aroha (love), providing a safe and supportive space for people to learn new skills, connect and build relationships to strengthen and uplift entire neighbourhoods. Community Hubs also all face similar challenges, including limited resources and volunteer hours, which is why Healthy Families Waitākere is more than happy to step into this space and act as an overarching support liaison in this kaupapa.”

Both hubs have identified an opportunity for a Kai Village Coordinator. The role would focus on connecting the resources that already exist within the community with those that need it, as well as strengthening the initiatives that already champions local kai for local people. A complimentary approach where there wasn’t too much overlap would be a key priority for this role.    

A working group has been formed to flesh out what this role would look like for West Auckland, alongside researching available funding channels to test the role in the near future.