The 155 Whare Āwhina community house in Whangārei has teamed up with Foodstuffs to open a social supermarket.
With deprivation at an all-time high in Northland, it gives much-needed dignity back to families.
The new supermarket is called Whare Kai, and is run on a points system. Points are essentially like money, so instead of spending money, people spend points. It is open to anyone who is in need.
The 155 Whare Kai social supermarket will operate in a way that offers groceries to shoppers at a low cost or even no cost, using the points system rather than a recommended retail price.
Community group 155 Whare Āwhina is at the coal face of rising social inequality, and its head says that's getting worse. Whare Āwhina chief executive Liz Cassidy-Nelson says the idea of a social supermarket is just groundbreaking.
"So we've been running a food bank for over a year and a half. We did see the Wellington City Mission opened (a social supermarket) well over a year and a half ago and we just absolutely loved the social supermarket model.
"So the process in terms of whānau, they'll come in. If we don't know them, we'll sit down and we'll have a chat. We'll talk and they'll share with us what the issues are, and we may be able to help in other areas. But essentially, it is about ensuring that they get the kai that they need."
This is Foodstuffs’ fourth social supermarket partnership, following the success of the Wellington City Mission Social Supermarket, Te Hiku Pātaka in Kaitāia – which is a partnership with Te Kahu Oranga Whānau and Tokoroa Social Supermarket, in partnership with Buttabean Motivation.
Meets huge need
Willa Hand, head of membership experience at Foodstuffs North Island, says the initiative helps communities that need it most.
"It's really out of the box. It's a different way of thinking about access to food and it just busts down a whole lot of barriers and misconceptions and the idea of what food support or food insecurity looks like."
"There's a huge amount of need and that need's been growing over the past couple of years. So it's just great to be able to come in, work with a community group like Whare Āwhina, and do something a little bit different to help people get access to healthy and affordable food."
Matt Heap, who chairs Foodstuffs' Here For New Zealand, a group dedicated to supporting local communities, says it's important for the private sector to help initiatives like Whare Kai.
"It's really about the products people want. It's not about supplying things that are just available and people don't want. Kids have got particular tastes and families have particular tastes and food is meant to bring some happiness."
"To see our work come to fruition, and see the difference is going to make in people's lives, and the personal connections that these guys are going to do, and the difference they're gonna make, that's where the magic is."