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Sharing the love through food

Stocking up: Lynsey Abbott adds donated tin food to the pantry shelves.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, canned food, bread, school lunches and cleaning and personal products line the shelves of an open-door pantry in Livingstone Rd, ready for those in need to help themselves.

Out the back in a chest freezer, there is meat, milk, yoghurt, butter and more.

Pataka Kai is the brainchild of Lynsey Abbott, and four months from setup it is a raging success.

Lynsey and husband Haira had been delivering food parcels to people needing emergency food assistance for a long time but wanted a way to help more people; and they wanted to get the community involved.

She had heard of public pantries set up to help people short of food after paying their fixed costs - things like rent and power – and decided to give it a go.

Now, after stories in the local papers and on national television and radio, an average 250 people a week come to collect food to feed their families.

“They’re struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table. With rents climbing to crazy levels, they just can’t do it,” says Lynsey.

And it is all about community. More than 90 per cent of the donations come from individuals, topped up with a donation of a variety of products from New World Flaxmere.

“Often we will have a mum arrive and she will have something to put into the pantry as well as taking something she needs.”

Lynsey takes out packs of beautifully peeled and chopped potatoes and carrots, ready for the pot – a weekly donation from a lady who wants to help.

“There are good people out there who just want to do their bit.”

The name, Pataka Kai, came from her brother-in-law, however, perhaps through collective consciousness, it seems the same idea and name was occurring to hundreds of people around New Zealand. A national Pataka Kai website shows more than 80 open street pantries, plus the locations of other food giveaways.

The Livingstone Rd Pataka Kai is part of the Abbott’s support and advocacy group One Voice, Flaxmere. It helps people going through difficult times for any reason, from being unable to find a home or having trouble accessing WINZ assistance, to dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse or domestic violence.

To find out more about One Voice, and to see updates on what is available in the pantry, search their Facebook page: @onevoicestandup


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