We give back our profits to the community in all sorts of ways. One of those ways is Million Dollar Mission – an initiative that helps community organisations achieve big things in West Auckland. VisionWest is a recent recipient of Million Dollar Mission funding.

Taema is typical of the people VisionWest is seeking to help with the innovative free foodstore and community support project, Paataka Kai. A solo mum with four children and elderly dependent parents, Taema struggles to make ends meet despite working two part-time jobs. Rent and heating are prioritised often at the expense of food on the table.

According to VisionWest’s Brook Turner, Taema’s story is typical of many families in West Auckland. ‘There’s a real food hunger crisis,’ says Brook. ‘Families are struggling and basic needs are going unmet across West Auckland and the wider region.’

And if this wasn’t scandalous enough, the real tragedy is that New Zealanders are throwing away over $2 billion of food every year.

A recipient of $62,770 from The Trusts Million Dollar Mission, VisionWest’s Paataka Kai project is going to do something about it. The name Paataka Kai comes from the traditional Maori concept of a community food storehouse. Different whanau were responsible for stocking the storehouse at different times of the year, but the whole community benefited.

VisionWest has brought this concept up to date by using surplus food sourced from local supermarkets, cafes, restaurants and manufacturers to supply the foodstore. So not only will Paataka Kai offer much-needed support to struggling families, it will also be making a contribution to the massive problem of food waste in this country.

However, the project will do much more than just redistributing food and providing charitable handouts. Whanau are expected to actively participate in Paataka Kai as well. Brook makes it clear that ‘everyone contributes and everyone receives’ so whether it’s by volunteering at the foodstore, working behind the scenes or simply by taking the time to sit and listen to the stories of others, the idea is that everyone puts in as much as they take out. Paataka Kai will empower families to make a difference to their own communities.

VisionWest belongs to an extensive network of support agencies throughout Auckland. With a firm belief in the power of a collaborative, multi-agency approach, their vision is to enable families to make changes. Identifying the root causes of poverty by taking the time to listen to the stories of people who visit the foodstore, VisionWest will refer people on to other agencies who can help. It might be assistance with budgeting, improving literacy and numeracy skills or providing support with mental health issues. Often it’s the small changes that have a big impact on turning lives around.

Initially operating over five days a week, the Paataka Kai foodstore is still in need of support from food manufacturers, restaurants and cafes. ‘We couldn’t have got the project off the ground without the support of The Trusts Million Dollar Mission,’ advises Brook, ‘and the thousands of supporters who really got behind our bid and voted. But we’re on the lookout for more food providers to partner with us.’

VisionWest are always looking for food donations. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Brook Turner on 09 818 0703.