Cooking Up a Storm
The Salvation Army in Gisborne has had a lot on its plate with Cyclone Hale and then Gabrielle hitting the Tairawhiti region especially hard. A response hub during the relief effort, volunteers cooked up a storm of hot meals for evacuated families and emergency workers. With the introduction of Te Kai Mākona, The Salvation Army’s new food security and sovereignty framework, not only has ‘cooking kai’ become firmly embedded as a key food support in Gisborne, but ‘hunting kai’ has put meat back on the menu through a local partnership with Kaiwhakangau.
Te Kai Mākona is The Salvation Army’s re-imagined approach to food hardship in Aotearoa. Mākona means to be fully satisfied and have everything you need physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. Our vision is to be places of support and connection, strengthening food security and sovereignty for whānau and communities. This new kaupapa offers a mana-enhancing shift in power by returning choice and agency to individuals and families. With food supports like flexible kai plans, nutritious frozen meals and access to fresh protein-rich meat, Te Kai Mākona has enabled the Gisborne Salvation Army to do what it does well, more sustainably.
Feeding the 5000
Long before disaster struck the region, ‘cooking kai’ for struggling families using donations and rescued food was an integral part of The Salvation Army’s food support practice. But when successive cyclones ravished the region within a few months of each other, this effort ramped up and The Salvation Army became a hot food hub for the community.
‘We had local chefs come and volunteer in our kitchen cooking kai as part of the cyclone response effort. We cooked anything that came in the door and reached out to help feed emergency service workers and volunteers. We delivered hot food to the local fire station, civil defense team and MSD office staff during the initial cyclone response phase,’ explains Gisborne Community Ministries Team Leader Rayleen Wright. ‘As the community moved into the recovery phase, we supplied individuals with food to help their elderly neighbours, supported the homeless with hot kai and sent kai out to the hard-hit areas. We even used our meals to support a tangihana, as the local Marae had limited water.’
With a great kitchen and plenty of freezer space, approximately 5000 meals were prepared in total, for further distribution during the recovery period and beyond.
The provision of meat for food parcels and frozen meals has been an ongoing challenge and budget expense for Rayleen and the Gisborne team. But during the cyclone recovery their prayers were answered when Rayleen had a conversation with Lisa Daunton of Kaiwhakangau, a group of local iwi hunter/gathers. With a kaupapa of ‘Hunt to live, give and preserve’, Kaiwhakangau has been connecting local food banks on the East Coast with MPI-certified wild organic meat since 2020.
As part of Te Kai Mākona’s kaupapa, ‘partnering around kai’ with other food providers, individuals and organisations to deliver collective impact is encouraged. Not only is The Salvation Army Gisborne partnering with Kaiwhakangau, but The Village Butchery is also a crucial player in this unique collaboration.
‘Kaiwhakangau cuts up the meat and Lisa drops it off to the butcher who processes it into mince and sausages for us at cost price. For a kilo of venison mince, we are paying only $3. It’s crazy! But a vital need is being met,’ says Rayleen. ‘At the moment we are receiving mostly venison, but most East Coast whānau are used to cooking and eating venison. A few have needed some cooking tips, but on the whole people are just so happy to have meat in their food parcels.’
Meat is often one of the first grocery items to go when things are tight, so this collaboration has not only put meat back on the menu for struggling whānau, but reduced food provision costs for The Salvation Army Gisborne. It’s a win all-round, and an exciting example of the innovative potential that Te Kai Makona encourages.
With Super-Grans being the main community foodbank in Gisborne, The Salvation Army’s foodbank plays a supporting role to meet food hardship in the community. With the lingering effects of the pandemic and locals still reeling with the brutal effects of the cyclones, the team has been busy responding to increased demand for food support, and the move to Te Kai Mākona has provided them with some useful tools like kai plans. Working together with whānau, a flexible and tailored food plan is designed that assures people they have access to food while they resolve more pressing issues that are contributing to food insecurity.
‘Kai plans have been so well-received here in Tarawhiti. Staff and volunteers are appreciating being able to offer kai plans as they are giving whānau breathing space to work out finances and create sustainability where possible,’ explains Rayleen. ‘They provide a workable solution for whānau and encourage ownership and sustainability.’
‘We also cook and freeze meals using donated and rescued kai from our region,’ says Rayleen. ‘This enables us to provide meals in food parcels and to whānau/individuals who need them.’
Recently Rayleen received a letter from a social worker from Pinnacle Midlands Health Network thanking the team for their support with nutritious, frozen meals for a patient. Planning and preparing meals was causing great stress and anxiety. Social worker Lana Reed says, ‘After five weeks of regular nutritious meals the patient can sleep better, take care of herself and her home and is now able to concentrate on her health and wellbeing goals. Thank you to Rayleen and the team for all their support creating meals that have really helped a patient in her wellbeing journey.’
With cooking kai, kai plans and community collaboration making up The Salvation Army Gisborne’s Te Kai Mākona menu so far, Raylene offers some sage advice to others on the journey: ‘Really, we are all in the same waka, but sometimes we’re paddling out of alignment. If you need to stop and take a breath, do it. Psalm 41:10 says “be still and know that I am God”. So reach out because God has put people around you to share the paddling. Otherwise you will find yourself paddling in circles. “Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. My success is not mine alone, it is the success of the collective”.’