Whangārei Community Ministries have been shifting from the traditional foodbank model to opening a social supermarket, with a passion to provide kai (food) to all.
The social supermarket runs on a points system that is facilitated by wellbeing workers (social workers). Their role is to meet with whānau (families), find out what’s happening in their lives and offer a kai plan for however long they need it. Whānau also get to choose their own kai in the supermarket.
Whangārei Community Ministries Manager Trevor McLean had a vision of making kai more accessible to everyone and when Te Kai Mākona (the Territorial Community Ministries Food Provision Framework) was launched, it helped solidify the vision.
Instead of a standardised food parcel, the kai plan is individualised to each whānau, dependent on their needs. Although they have an appointment-based system, whānau are still welcome to come into the centre and will always leave with kai.
‘I think one of the biggest things that our wellbeing workers have commented on is just how empowering it’s been for whānau’, said Team Leader Teneille Johnson.
Trevor explained that, ‘there is no, “sorry, you’re not getting food”. It’s about connecting with them, listening to their heart, listening to their story. And if that takes one or two visits or a few more, that’s the heart of it.’
There are also other services offered from the wellbeing workers, including advocacy if whānau need help in other areas of their lives, such as applying for benefits or accommodation. They also have a chaplain onsite for whānau to talk to if they need emotional or spiritual support.
They provide kai to the community in low decile schools and out on the streets in the lower socio-economic suburbs of Whangārei. The team also run life skill programmes, support Recovery Church, youth and senior fellowship programmes and offer kai to all participants.
Partnerships with other organisations are incredibly important to their mission and to get kai provisions; they also partner with Taimahi, a trust that works with whānau with disabilities.
Whangārei Community Ministries has so many people involved in making this all happen, including staff, volunteers and families. Kai Coordinator Carl Worthington said, ‘it takes all of us working together to make it work. Everybody is a hero and thus everybody gets the credit’.
Their next plan is to start a programme called Oranga Kai, that will involve cooking classes, teaching whānau basic gardening skills through a community garden and sharing advice on ways to save money on food.
The team’s overall vision is that ultimately kai will bring their whole community together to get behind and support one another.
Teneille added that, ‘kai is what brings whānau and community together … let us all come together and collaborate as a community, so kai isn’t what whānau are missing out on.’