Food to Thrive

$2.00. It's not a lot of money but for a gold coin in Wainuiomata you can buy a pie and a can of fizzy drink. In the Lower Hutt suburb, the reality is that some youth don't have access to enough nutritious food. School finishes and they're starving, so they head to a local shop to purchase what $2.00 can buy. Our partner charity, Kaibosh Food Rescue is supporting Tihei Rangatahi to change this.

In Wainuiomata some families can't afford to provide healthy food for their rangatahi. There's young people who go to school hungry. Lunch may consist of chips, two minute noodles and a raro sachet. By the time the school bell rings at the end of the day, they're famished. And so they head to one of the many takeaway shops along Queen Street that sells cheap junk food; hot chips, lollies, pies, fizzy drinks.

Across the road from the long line of takeaway shops sits the Wainuiomata Community Centre. Owned by the Hutt City Council, Tihei Rangatahi set up in the space three years ago to provide wellbeing programmes for young people aged 7–18 years old. 

Operated by Kōkiri Marae Keriana Olsen Trust, Tihei Rangatahi works to enhance wellbeing, offering unique opportunities to inspire rangatahi to achieve their goals. Through kaupapa Māori activities, Tihei Rangatahi gives young people access to positive mentors who provide guidance and support. 

Team Leader, Renee Davies has lived in Wainuiomata her whole life and helped start Tihei Rangatahi. Renee says there's a number of challenges facing the Wainuiomata community. "Poverty is an issue and a lack of affordable housing. For young people, mental health and bullying is a problem. Life is hard if you don't have friends. There also isn't great career pathways available for Māori here."

Food is a large component of Tihei Rangatahi to tackle the issues facing youth. When Tihei Rangatahi first started their after school programmes they introduced a healthy kai policy. "The kids weren't allowed to bring junk food into the community centre. Some kids then decided they didn't want to come anymore, or they'd stand outside eating junk food before coming in," says Renee. "We then realised they're just hungry. I relate to that, I remember always being starving when I finished school. Junk food is cheap, so that's what they buy."

Tihei Rangatahi decided they needed to provide food for their youth, but it was costly. "We tried to do our best, but couldn't always provide enough. So we approached Kaibosh Food Rescue."

Now for over two years Kaibosh has provided food to Tihei Rangatahi. Four times a week they do a pick up from the Kaibosh Lower Hutt warehouse, collecting healthy, nutritious food which has been rescued from businesses in the Hutt. Food that would otherwise be needlessly discarded.

The Kaibosh food is used to feed the young people during programmes, but also for cooking classes where the rangatahi learn how to make healthy food, such as quiches, stir-fry, mini pizzas and fruit smoothies.

"Food is really important. It brings young people to the community centre, so we can provide them with support. Teaching them about healthy cooking also enables them to take that knowledge back to their families," says Renee.

Tihei Rangatahi also wanted their youth to learn where the food they receive comes from. Recently they took a field trip to Kaibosh Lower Hutt, where the rangatahi volunteered during a food sort, seeing first-hand how the food is allocated, ready to be collected by Kaibosh's food recipient groups.

The rangatahi visit Kaibosh Lower Hutt

The rangatahi visit Kaibosh Lower Hutt

Kaibosh food not only provides nourishment and education for young people in Wainuiomata. It also reaches the wider community through Tihei Rangatahi. "On Thursdays we get a larger amount of food from Kaibosh, so we create packs for families. They're only allowed one per month, as we don't want people to rely on it," says Renee. Kōkiri Marae Keriana Olsen Trust offers a wide range of wrap-around services, so if families need packs more frequently, they're referred to other support services.

"I'm a big believer in communities solving their own problems. In Wainuiomata I believe we know what we need to do to solve the challenges we're facing. We don't need to be saved. We just need some support to make things happen," says Renee.

The collaboration with Kaibosh Food Rescue is a perfect example of how with support, Tihei Rangatahi is empowering young people in Wainuiomata with the tools to thrive.

Tihei Rangatahi's Kawa

Tihei Rangatahi's Kawa

Words by Christel Price and photography by Pat Shepherd.

Kaibosh Food Rescue is a Wellington Region based charity that collects quality surplus food and provides it to community groups that support people in need.You can support their work with a regular donation by clicking on the big blue button below, thank you.