Opening cupboards to the community

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29 November 2018

Understanding the daily struggle many families face to put food on the table has prompted a Housing New Zealand tenant to open her own cupboards to help feed the local community.

A pātaka (which is the Maori word for pantry or larder ) in Otangarei has been running for two months thanks to the efforts of local resident and Housing New Zealand tenant, Diana.

"The idea came from my daughter who had seen something similar and thought it would be a great idea for our community," says Diana.

The pātaka started out as a shop, but Diana moved the pātaka to outside her Housing New Zealand home and stocked it with a range of donated food items.

"We have people dropping off all sorts of food – cartons of eggs, boxes of avocados, fruit and vegetables, staples like bread, flour and sugar along with household items like washing powder and toilet paper."

Diana’s pātaka is designed to allow people to take as much or as little food as they please.

"Some people take just the essentials like flour, bread and tea, some take more and some may only take a potato to bulk out their dinner that night, it really varies."

The stall, says Diana, is also not just for Otangarei residents.

"It is to help people wherever they may come from. I just encourage people to only take what they need as there are people who are far worse off than they are."

Diana often reaches into her own cupboard to stock the pātaka and makes up to 25 school lunches every Monday to give out to kids.

"Weekends are a real struggle for many families and come Monday there is not much food left. This means some kids don’t go to school on a Monday as they have no lunch."

When it comes to donations, Diana only asks that people give what they can.

"It does not have to be a lot – it could be a loaf of bread or a can of spaghetti, just something as it all helps."

The support Diana has received from her local community has been great, with many people regularly people donating, some as far away as Australia.

"There are some people with big hearts in this place.

"I am really thankful for the people in my community who donate, especially local New World owner Eric Rush, who has gifted so much food to help feed this community."

The fruit and vegetable donations are especially welcomed says Diana, as they are often too expensive for struggling families to buy.

"We get donations of cabbages, carrots, fruit, boxes of bananas. I put these in the fruit and vegetable baskets on the fence and it’s great to see kids grab some fruit on their way to and from school."

When asked what the most requested food item is, Diana says milk powder is always number one for the kids.

"It’s surprising, but like all kids they just want to be able to have their cereal in the morning and a cup of tea."

If people want to donate to Diana’s pātaka, the best way is to purchase the items through Countdown or New World’s online shopping websites, and enter the delivery address: 34 William Jones Drive, Otangarei.

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