Social supermarket to help put kai on the table with dignity

By James Perry

A new supermarket venture in Te Hiku o te Ika is hoped to provide some relief for whānau at the checkout as the cost of living continues to rise.

Foodstuffs, owners of supermarket chains New World, Pak'nSave and Four Square, are teaming up with Te Kahu Oranga, a collective of iwi and Māori organisations in the far north to bring Te Hiku Pātaka to Kaitāia 

"For a while, Te Kahu Oranga has been working on establishing a new supermarket to help whānau struggling and those in difficult situations to feed their children and their elderly throughout the Far North," Te Rawara chief executive Greg Riley says.

The issue of rising grocery prices has seen kai, especially fresh fruit and vegetables, become expensive in recent years, leading to the government commissioning a market study into the supermarket industry. 

The Commerce Commission found competition in the supermarket sector was not working, and suppliers and consumers were both being squeezed by the big players. It made a number of recommendations to create better competition in the sector to reduce prices for consumers. 

Despite that, Riley says Foodstuffs and Progressive [owners of Countdown] have kept the supply of healthy foods in the north out of reach for many.

Food inflation

"The cost is a big issue for Māori in the Far North, so this new supermarket, Te Hiku Pātaka, hopes to resolve that issue for whānau, in particular the inflation on foods that we are all experiencing across the country," he says.

It's the second social supermarket of this kind, the first established between Foodstuffs and the Wellington City Mission. 

Foodstuffs North Island spokesperson Willa Hand says the idea behind social supermarkets is for whānau and individuals who are struggling to put kai on the table to do so with dignity.

"We can do more than just give them what we have in a pre-packed food parcel. The intention is to have a range of products on the shelves in our social supermarket that enables them to come in, have the dignity of choosing the products they need themselves, so they can make the kind of meals they want to cook while shopping in an environment that looks and feels like a normal supermarket," she said.

Riley said for many of the people in the north, being able to shop with dignity is a barrier, particularly with the high unemployment rate in the region.

"Though there is a high unemployment rate in the Far North, it's extremely embarrassing to go to the supermarket to buy groceries but then realise they don't have enough to pay for their shop. We aim to prevent that from happening, and our ancestors' adage, people are the most important, regardless of whether they are unemployed or have nothing, they are still people. Our role at Te Kahu Oranga is to provide them with the right support to meet their needs."