Community organisations have been working together since the lockdown making sure Lower Hutt whānau have been able to get quick access to support initiatives.
Local demand across the city during lockdown increased three-fold, with more than 500 food parcels a day being delivered. As well, community groups reported a new cohort of families requesting support: those who had previously been able to manage, but who were now tipping over into food insecurity.
Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry says the impacts of COVID-19 continue to bring underlying issues to the city’s surface, and a team effort is required to build resilience for those challenging situations.
“We know lockdowns are an extremely difficult time for our communities, particularly those who struggle to feed themselves and their families,” he said.
“Lower Hutt has some amazing community organisations feeding local families, and we’re making sure council does its part to support this work and make those tough times a little less stressful for people living week to week.”
Hutt City Council Chief Executive Jo Miller says council has a key role in supporting community-led wellbeing initiatives. “Hutt Valley’s emergency Kai Collective is a powerful example. It’s enabled council to shift our role, nurturing and walking beside amazing community organisations to address immediate need, and support enduring partnerships that enable our people to thrive. Our staff have done great work in this space.”
Teresea Olsen, of Kōkiri Marae, and Julia Milne of Lower Hutt-based charity Common Unity, have worked together to coordinate the Collective, a group of like-minded organisations that have been managing the kai response across the city.
“The Collective evolved out of an initial partnership between our marae and Common Unity during lockdown 2020,” explains Teresea. “It is aligned to the aims and intentions of the broader Hutt Valley Food Resilience Network.
“The collective was formed during the August lockdown and now includes Lower Hutt Foodbank, Ōrongomai Marae, Stokes Valley Food Bank, Te Aroha Kai, and Hutt City Salvation Army,” she says. “We work together under a central hub to coordinate and distribute food to households across Te awa Kairangi.”
Julia Milne of Common Unity says that working together and sharing resources has given the collective greater reach. “The end result,” she says, “is that our whānau do better.” Julia acknowledges that there have been challenges to navigate in bringing such a large-scale collaboration together at speed.
“One of the biggest was around our assessment processes. We had to come up with a shared understanding of how we were going to distribute food that was mana-enhancing,” she explained.
“The outcome was that all of those involved in the collective were able to agree on a unified process that met the needs of the people we were helping. We didn’t want to ask invasive questions: It was enough to understand that people were calling us and needed our help.”
Julia says another conversation is now beginning to unfold as the collective shifts from emergency mode into supporting residents’ long-term wellbeing and resilience.
“It’s just not enough to have families living in a state of emergency, there needs to be more. That’s going to be next piece of work we undertake together.”
Hutt City Council supports the Kai Collective with administration and delivery costs via its Community Funding for Recovery initiative. During Alert Levels 3 and 4 council vehicles were used to help with deliveries with staff joining the effort to provide food and essential supplies to the community.