Regional | Māori

Northland social supermarket feeling the pinch

“You know food is a necessity and it’s a privilege at the moment to have food. So everything has to come down in order for people to live.”

155 Whare Kai, a social supermarket in Whangārei, is feeling the pinch of providing kai for poor families struggling under the weight of the rising cost of living.

The supermarket has been running for a year but it’s now calling for more support from local businesses as demand peaks to a new high and food prices rise.

155 Whare Āwhina chief executive Liz Cassidy-Nelson says the whare kai needs an extra $7,000 a week to fill struggling families’ needs.

“We’ve easily seen more than 5,000 people in the last year. So at 5,000, we have at least a thousand a week. The difficulty there is the sustainability of the model in terms of costs.”

The supermarket is a collaboration between 155 Whare Āwhina, Foodstuffs, New World, and Pak’n Save and runs on a points system. It offers groceries to shoppers at a low cost or even no cost, using the points system rather than a recommended retail price.

Points are essentially like money so, instead of spending money, people spend points. It is open to anyone who is in need.

And they are seeing the results. Jana Heke has five children: She says 155 Whare Kai has been a massive help for her and the community.

“Just a huge thank you. Not just from me, but from a lot of people here in Whangārei. It just really helps, aye?”

Carol Job is another who regularly comes to the whare kai. She says accessing government support is difficult.

“I’ve got a husband with cancer. Those government people don’t help us. These guys are the bomb; they come to our aid once every two months, maybe, and we would be lost without them.”