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Co-creating sustainable food systems

Imagine if our local communities were sustainable and resilient places to nurture and grow kai.


At Healthy Families NZ, we know that social connectedness is a key driver of wellbeing and resilience. When we combine this with sharing kai in our neighbourhoods, our communities become happier, healthier and better places to live, learn, work and play.


Our Healthy Families NZ location teams are working in partnership with communities and local partner organisations to activate local spaces, enabling communities to become more food sustainable.


A new fruit orchard in South Invercargill is helping cultivate a sense of community, eventually sustaining local families with healthy kai. The McQuarrie St Orchard, a collaboration project between Healthy Families Invercargill, South Alive (an urban regenerative trust) and Invercargill City Council’s Parks and Recreation team, is one of several gardens forming part of the Murihiku Maara initiative.


Healthy Families Invercargill lead systems innovator Stella O’Connor said community insights showed people wanted access to healthy kai, but also wanted to connect as a community and learn more about how to grow their own food.


“This orchard is a perfect example of how public green spaces can be used in a different way to encourage community connection and build initiatives that will benefit community wellbeing.”


Healthy Families Far North have partnered with rangatahi from Kerikeri High School, alongside representatives from Ngāti Rehia, Far North District Council and Vision Consulting to co-design a new māra hūpara to be built at the Kerikeri Sports Complex.


Six students were selected to be part of the project working group, helping to inform the design and development of the play space. The students explored storytelling components that bring a deeper meaning to activities and tākaro Māori.

Healthy Families Whanganui, Rangitīkei, Ruapehu have a vision where local kai systems are regenerative and protect natural resources. Dave Hursthouse, Lead Systems Innovator for Healthy Families Whanganui, Rangitīkei, Ruapehu, has been building community connection across two neighbouring suburbs in Whanganui - Aramoho and Papaiti.


Part of weaving the community closer together around kai involves a monthly community meal at Te Ao Hou Marae. Through this initiative, community members said that they were keen to grow kai, starting with kūmara. From these conversations, the para kūmara situated at the Pīwakawaka regenerative farm in Papaiti was created.


Like pumpkins ready for the autumn harvest, community gardens have been popping up across Tāmaki Makaurau for years. Yet, there has been little traction to scale these initiatives to cover more land, making more fresh and nutritious produce available for whānau across the region.


With funding from Auckland Council’s Regional Environment and Natural Heritage Fund, Healthy Families Waitākere engaged consultancy Place Creative to undertake the ‘Waitākere Urban Farm Feasibility Study’ identifying potential sites for food production at scale in West Auckland. The study’s findings pointed to challenges within the Auckland Unitary Plan and highlights an opportunity for Auckland Council to deliver on policy goals around local food growing.


In South Auckland, the drive for more sustainable local food systems is coming from communities. Emerging as an idea in 2017, via the Healthy Families South Auckland (The Southern Initiative) team, the Papatoetoe Food Hub in South Auckland has been evolving a community-based approach to providing good and affordable food.


Many individuals, local communities and organisations have come together through the Food Hub Collective to grow and shape the concept and made the Papatoetoe Food Hub a reality. Auckland Council has played multiple roles to enable the Food Hub to become what it is today. The Southern Initiative supported through enabling, seed funding and a backbone role. Eke Panuku Development facilitated access to the Papatoetoe site. Waste Solutions supports composting and waste reduction on site, and the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board is a champion. Foundation North has been the major funder to date, and New World Papatoetoe supermarket next door to the Food Hub is the main food supply partner.


The Papatoetoe Food Hub concept revolves around community-led enterprise, within a circular economy model in which surplus food is rescued from being wasted and turned into good affordable food for the community, within a zero-waste approach.


Making it easy for tamariki and whānau to access healthy kai is vital for creating a healthier and happier Aotearoa. These stories illustrate what kind of collective impact is possible when local people are empowered, enabled and supported to create edible spaces for their people, in their communities.


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