Take what you need, leave what you can

The free street open pantry movement, or Pātaka Kai, is sweeping across Aotearoa. 

Nearly one month to the day since the first street open pantry launched on Cooper Crescent in Ōtara, the number of pātaka kai has gone from a few in the first week of launch to more than 30.

Te Kāea was present at the launch of Ōtara's second open pantry on Clayton Ave and the mood from those in the community there was positive and hopeful.

More listed Street Pātaka Kai have since opened up across South, Central, East and West Auckland, Hamilton, Hastings and the Far North.

However, as popular and as much-needed in the communities these pantries are, kaitiaki or guardians of the pātaka kai have faced their share of minor setbacks.

Jacqueline Maangi (Te Whānau-a-Apanui) is one of five mums who look after the Village Pātaka on Ferguson St in Māngere.

She explains within 24 hours of their launch, their bread bin was "borrowed" and not returned.

"We were gutted, we let the wider pātaka whānau know what happened and within the next 24 hours, someone in the community donated a replacement."

She says, "It just goes to show there may be a handful who want to spoil it for the rest, but there's three-four times more who are willing to back you."

"Take what you need, leave what you can" - Pātaka kai motto

Other pātaka kai have had ripped bags and food wasted, food - they say - that could have gone to hungry stomachs.

In 2008, a study on the rising cost of food in Aotearoa showed the rapid rise in grocery food costs, especially for dairy foods.

It seems now ten years on, nothing much has changed. Maangi says this is the practical community-driven response in helping those in dire need of food.

She also says "when the cupboards are bare" that local businesses, tertiary education classes, and other community groups are getting behind their pātaka kai. 

The hope is that they are around to stay for a long time.