Free food pantry at Auckland school feeds students and community

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A new community food pantry at Auckland’s Alfriston College has been set up to feed students and their whānau. 

The pantry – Te Paataka Manaaki – was opened after staff noticed students were saving food from the breakfast and lunch clubs to take home. 

The school’s community hauora leader Donna Tupaea-Petero said the pantry had had an “awesome response” since it opened two weeks ago. 

Students and parents had been helping themselves to food, which she said the school wanted to “normalise and de-stigmatise”.

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“We hope to create a welcoming, shared and safe place here – as we connect with parents it is awesome to be able to invite them to take kai,” she said.

The paataka is located indoors next to reception, which Tupaea-Petero said was “ideal” as it was the first port of call for parents.

The paataka joins a host of other initiatives to feed students, including hot meals from KidsCan.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

The paataka joins a host of other initiatives to feed students, including hot meals from KidsCan.

The idea for the initiative came from the growing movement of community pantries.

“[It] is essentially a return to the ways of our tūpuna in respect to the collective gathering and sharing of kai for all,” Tupaea-Petero said. 

“What I have noticed is that the paataka promotes a ‘feel good factor’ – the gift of giving is priceless and does wonders for ones wairua.”

One parent had dropped off a whole boot-load of kai, she said, and local businesses and community groups were also donating food. 

Alfriston College's paataka will be stocked with kai every day.

ALFRISTON COLLEGE/FACEBOOK

Alfriston College’s paataka will be stocked with kai every day.

The initiative was part of the school’s wider focus on student and community wellbeing, Tupaea-Petero said.

She said they already provided hot lunches once a week and ran a breakfast programme with support from Kickstart, Te Painga Project and KidsCan.

In future they hoped to be able to provide every child with one hot meal a day, she said. 

“We know that when kids are fed, they are happy kids. Happy kids are much easier to engage in learning so it’s a win-win.”

At Alfriston College, there's no stigma attached to accepting or asking for help.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

At Alfriston College, there’s no stigma attached to accepting or asking for help.

The initiative will be trialled this term with a view to making it a permanent fixture at the school.

Tupaea-Petero said they would be tracking the paataka over the next few months to make sure their output could match requirements. 

If they had surplus kai, they might set up a pop-up paataka run by students at the local shopping centre or WINZ office once a fortnight, she said. 

She said they would also be able to do kai drop-offs from the paataka to families who needed it with the help of the school’s youth worker. 

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