Whangārei social supermarket stocks shelves for Christmas

Ihaka Kapa, 155 Whare Kai co-ordinator and155 Whare Āwhina chief executive Liz Cassidy-Nelson prepare for the Christmas rush. Photo / Tania Whyte

People troubled by the pressures of filling bellies this Christmas can turn to Whangārei’s social supermarkets, which are stocking up for the festive season.

In Whangārei, 155 Whare Kai is ready for its first Christmas of providing food free of price tags, as is Te Hiku Pātaka further north in Kaitāia.

Social supermarkets allow people who do not have reliable access to enough safe and nutritious food to choose what they need for themselves in a supermarket-style environment.


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They are an alternative to pre-filled food parcels from foodbanks that may not meet their specific dietary, cultural or personal needs.

Instead of using money to purchase food, there is a points system based on the needs of the household.

155 Whare Āwhina chief executive Liz Cassidy-Nelson said for whānau with little money to spare, Christmas can be a really stressful time.

“Not having to worry about the essentials of kai means they can focus on the other things that make Christmas.”


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The demand for food spikes in the lead-up to any holiday but particularly around the festive holiday, Cassidy-Nelson said.

Since opening in September on Woods Rd the supermarket – in partnership with Foodstuffs North Island – has helped 7000 people and currently caters for 130 families.

“As schools finish, children are at home more and there’s often relatives visiting which brings the responsibility of providing kai,” Cassidy-Nelson said.

“This year is especially hard for people with the cost of living crisis putting pressure on budgets that are already stretched.”

To celebrate 155 Whare Kai’s first Christmas, the team held an open day with the social supermarket sporting a range of festive decorations.


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Community members were able to walk through the aisles and find out about the range of free services on offer.

The social supermarket programme is part of Foodstuffs’ commitment to be “Here for NZ”, which helps ensure all New Zealanders have access to healthy, affordable food and supports local communities to thrive.

In the spirit of Christmas, Foodstuffs has partnered with Pams and Farmland to put together 150 hampers full of goodies to donate to 155 Whare Kai.

Each hamper has the ingredients and recipe card for classic Kiwi dishes such as glazed ham, potato salad, seafood salad, and pavlova.

Willa Hand, head of membership experience for Foodstuffs North Island, commended the fantastic job 155 Whare Kai was doing.

Whangārei’s social supermarket is the fourth for Foodstuffs North Island. Plans are in the pipeline to roll the programme out to more communities nationwide.


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155 Whare Kai relies on community support and donations of money, food, shopping bags, egg cartons, surplus vegetables from gardens, or even seedlings.

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