A community project offering affordable healthy lunches in the Lower Hutt suburb of Taita has become so popular it has expanded to neighbouring Naenae where it has also been embraced.
The Koha Café, run by community group Great Start Taita, began operating every Friday from May last year. Volunteers cook healthy foods, with some of the food grown by the group or sourced locally.
Payment is by koha for up to three dishes.
The number of diners has steadily climbed, and most Fridays about 55 people have lunch.
Since May 2016 it has also been operating the Naenae Koha Kitchen at Naenae Community Hall each Wednesday, offering a similar menu.
Koha Kitchen sold out of food for its first lunch and is averaging 25-30 diners each week.
Great Start Taita general manager Werner Nowitzki says they decided to expand to Naenae after it was suggested by several residents who had been lunching at the Taita Koha Café.
Hutt City Council provided some funding for Great Start Taita and the use of Naenae Community Hall.
Mr Nowitzki says their philosophy is offering food that is tasty, healthy and affordable. “We never use stuff from cans, from the freezer. Nothing is precooked. Basically a lot we get is from the fruit and vege co-op in Naenae or locally, like Common Sense [Organics] who chip in every second week with produce.”
Council Community Facilitator Joni Araiti says, “By Naenae Koha Kitchen cooking healthy and nutritious food it is creating a healthy community feel by providing a space where the community can come and share food and conversation.
“Koha Kitchen complements Council’s focus on healthy eating in a way which is affordable to all. And we send out an invitation to all to come and have a kai and a korero.”