On Wednesday 10 November, Whata Manaaki, our new food and goods warehouse, was officially opened.
The extra space Whata Manaaki provides will enable us to hold more kai at any one time and function as an effective distributor of food to those who come to us for kai and to those organisations we partner with throughout West Auckland.
From small beginnings to Whata Manaaki
Visionwest’s Pātaka Kai began in 1992 when Jean Abraham (Nana Jean) noticed the number of people who would come to the Trust in need of food. Grabbing two shelves in a broom cupboard at Glen Eden Baptist Church, Nana Jean began giving out food to those in need. Just one or two parcels a week at first – soon it was three or four and it just keep growing.
Throughout the 30 years since, the growth in the demand for food support has been consistent. Prior to the pandemic, the Pātaka Kai was providing around 250 parcels per week. During the pandemic this rose to unprecedented levels, sometimes over 1,000 a week as people struggled with isolation and loss of income.
Since the effects of the pandemic have eased, the number of parcels given away each week has dropped but remains greater than what was considered the norm pre-Covid. Up to 400 families are being feed each week with 1,758 food parcels being given to local whānau during last month (October 2022).
Whata Manaaki – the opening
Wednesday’s opening involved Visionwest staff, Board members, Pātaka Kai supporters and local dignitaries. The formal part of the evening included Fred Astle, our Pou Whakarae, speaking about the meaning of Whata Manaaki and how this building is not just about kai. It is for anything that would be a blessing to our whānau.
Lisa, our CEO, spoke of the history of Pātaka Kai and honoured both Nana Jean and Nettie Burton, a former board member and long-time Visionwest supporter and Pātaka Kai volunteer. Giving thanks to the Trust’s many supporters, Lisa reminded us that we have no food shortage in Aotearoa New Zealand; we have whānau who are unable to afford to pay for the food that is available.
Brook Turner, our Head of Service Development and Partnerships, interviewed Nettie Burton (Nana Jean couldn’t make the event) and Christina Houghton. Christina, once one of our client whānau, has a vital role working for Visionwest’s Pātaka Kai and managing the weekly Te Kapu lunch.
Nathan May, our GM Community Services, had opened the evening talking about the connection that food enables between whānau. This connectedness was very much a theme of the evening and a number of speakers mentioned it. Nathan talked of Visionwest’s next planned food support project, a social supermarket which, it is expected, will open sometime in the new year.
The theme of connectedness was brought up again by Brook when he spoke of food insecurity going well beyond being a food crisis. The lack of connectedness makes it a mental health crisis while the inability to afford nutritional food makes it a physical crisis for many whānau.
The formal part of the evening concluded with Arvind Dayal, our Board Chairperson, paying tribute to all those who work in and support the food support service at Visionwest. He ended with karakia.
Whata Manaaki food
During the evening, an array of delicious food was served. Attendees were surprised to learn that most of it was rescued food – that is, food from the Pātaka Kai that, if not donated to Visionwest, would have been thrown out. It was a poignant reminder to everyone that food is available for all, but not all can afford to purchase it.
Whata Manaaki – the future
The intention is that the new food warehouse will be more than a storage place for kai. It will be a place of storage and distribution of all manner of goods that can be used to bless whānau who would otherwise go without. This includes items like blankets and bedding for the cooler months and other household items.
As already mentioned, plans are well underway for a social supermarket which will enable whānau to select the food they need rather than simply receiving a
prepacked food box. This will cut back on food wastage. The social supermarket will also provide a place of connectedness for those who visit it.
Te Kapu will continue into next year. Initiated by Glen Eden Baptist Church, this is a free community lunch held every Wednesday. Currently, up to 80 whānau from the community attend this event each week.
Whata Manaaki – the need
The need for food support within communities throughout Aotearoa New Zealand remains high. In Visionwest’s last financial year, over 90,000 adults and children received food support. That’s 30,284 food parcels (close to 600 per week) provided – a 350% increase on the previous year.
While the waning of the pandemic has lessened the need for food support to a point, the current cost of living increases, coupled with Covid related loss of income and the tail-end of the Covid wave means that many are still struggling. Our current food distribution levels, while less than during the pandemic, are still significantly higher than they were prior to it.
Many in our communities today face the daily stress of making serious financial choices every day; “Will I buy food, or will I pay my power bill before the electricity gets cut off?” “Will I buy food, or will I buy shoes for my child to replace the ones that have holes in the soles?”
By providing food support, Visionwest are easing the financial and mental stress that so many whānau face. We can’t always alleviate every ounce of that pressure, but we can free up money so some of those other vital items can be paid for.
Thank you to all our supporters and volunteers. It goes without saying that all this has been possible only because of your ongoing support. It is awesome to have you all onboard with us.