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Creating kai secure communities across Aotearoa

Everyone should have access to affordable, healthy food regardless of where they live, their background, culture, income, or education. But right now, across Aotearoa, a rapidly growing number of people are experiencing severe food insecurity. Despite Aotearoa producing enough food to feed 40 million people, almost four in ten homes experience food insecurity, with nearly one in five children living in homes that aren’t food secure.

Making it easy for our tamariki, whānau, and communities to access healthy food is vital for creating a healthier and happier Aotearoa.

As a Healthy Families NZ movement, we have prioritised working in the food system as food plays an essential role in our health and wellbeing. Our Healthy Families NZ locations have been working with local leaders, champions and changemakers to identify and enable change that supports kai secure communities.

A thriving kai system nourishes the physical, spiritual, and social expressions of the people it feeds, upholding the mana and wellbeing of our communities. Returning to food systems that uphold kai sovereignty allows communities to affirm their relationship with their land, water, and ancestors every day.

As we engage with communities, our Healthy Families NZ kaimahi hear how our current food system is leaving many people behind. A rapidly growing number of people are experiencing severe food insecurity, which means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from or if it will be nutritious enough to lead a healthy and active life.

Healthy Families Far North, in partnership with the local Kaeo community, recently created The Sowing Machine at the Kaeo playground. Stocked with seasonal seeds, potting mix, and recycled paper cups, tamariki learn how to plant and care for seedlings, either taking them home to their own māra kai or keep them in the Sowing Machine (a greenhouse) until they are ready to plant in the local community garden.

The Sowing Machine is a simple way we can reimagine public spaces and explore intergenerational learning through play, to better support people’s health and wellbeing.

In West Auckland, the community are taking a village approach to improve food security by shortening the food supply chain with the creation of ‘Kai Villages’. A place where local people, school students and community leaders come together to grow, harvest, and prepare nourishing food. The initiative draws on the already established food relief services in West Auckland, aiming to create a collective to minimise overlap and utilise unique skills across the collective.

Kai Villages will put healthy, affordable food in the hands and bellies of local people and aims to scale the initiative in the future.

With seed funding from Healthy Families Ōtautahi, Toha Kai is developing a pedal-powered delivery system to provide kai boxes of local produce around Ōtautahi, called Pedal Powered Produce. The initiative aims to create a sustainable and eco-friendly delivery service that doesn’t rely on cars, creates a model for emission-free delivery and continues to keep food affordable and accessible to the people of Ōtautahi.

The Murihiku Maara initiative has been a key focus for Healthy Families Invercargill, with the creation of Maara o te Mūranga a Rangi me te Hapori, a community garden and fruit orchard at local high school, Aurora College. The initiative is a true community collaboration involving the school, iwi, local government, and several other organisations, with a purpose to increase community access to good, nutritious food, but with a mātauranga Māori approach to learning, growing, and harvesting.

Communities hold the answers to re-orienting the food system to improve wellbeing. Around Aotearoa, we are hearing communities insisting now is the time to move toward sustainable food systems, which are regenerative and resilient; prioritise locally grown and affordable kai; and uphold mātauranga, kaitiakitanga and rangatiratanga.

If we use what we collectively know, work together and take action locally, regionally and nationally, we have the best opportunity to make good food the reality for all of our people.

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