South Auckland open pantries unite the community

By Tema Hemi

Ōtara locals in South Auckland are delving into the community spirit with the launch of their own free fruit & vege stands.  The open pantry initiative encourages locals to donate and receive free food for their whānau.

Local resident and organiser Swanie Nelson says, "Kai is such a big thing for us in terms of connecting neighbours and connecting families and also to help alleviate some of the hunger issues that happen in our community."

Poverty issues have been the driving force of this initiative. 

Nelson says, "We knew one of the barriers is transport- even to places that were local.  So we thought 'what's a way we can eliminate this barrier?' and we were like, 'let's bring it into the street!'

"Let's bring these stands into residential streets and the kaupapa would be to utilise all the different resources on our street, people's fruit trees, veges, non-perishable items that they have in their houses, they can put it out on the street, people can literally walk there."

The first pantry has only been running for 48 hours under pure faith.

Nelson says, "We don't police it, believe it or not!  I think one of the perceptions people think of South Auckland is if you put something out there the youth are gonna vandalise it, people are gonna take more than what they need and people really believe that we are like that.  You'll be really surprised how courteous people are in South Auckland."

Photo: South Auckland Community Fruit & Vege Stands

The local dairy, known as the "Superhero Superette", is also coming to the community's rescue.

Shop assistant Mellisa Brougham says, "It's really good aye, it just goes to show how much we can support our community as well as other residents around here."

The open pantry idea emerged just two weeks ago with Clayton Ave launching today.  There are also two more stands on Cooper Crescent and Ingrim Avenue.

Local residents can either donate or help themselves to whatever is on offer. 

If you would like to help with sponsorship for the stands, you can make contact via the Cooper Cres facebook page.