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Pātaka feeding a need

A team of Masterton tamariki are putting their school proverb into action – helping the community put food on the table.

Last week, Douglas Park School held a blessing ceremony for its new pātaka kai: A community pantry, filled with food donations for people to help themselves, should be struggling with their grocery bill.

The pantry, installed at Douglas Park’s Cole St entrance, was the brainchild of a group of Year 1 to 6 pupils, who worked on the project as part of the school’s community service programme.

Teacher Sophie MacDonald said the tamariki wanted to help ease food insecurity in Masterton – and were inspired to create their own pātaka kai after discovering a Facebook page for New Zealand’s Open Street Pantry movement.

Pātaka kai, usually on residential streets, allow communities to donate surplus food to be collected by those in need – with, as the Facebook page notes, “no form filling, no appointments, and no criteria”.

Now Douglas Park’s pātaka kai has been blessed, it is open for donations – with the tamariki taking responsibility for keeping it tidy and maintained.

MacDonald said the project was a way for the pupils to reflect the school’s motto, “nurture, explore and create for a better future”, within the community – and translate its philosophy into practical action.

“The message we want to pass on to the kids is that everything they do impacts others – and we want that impact to be positive,” she said.

“If they can see from an early age how important it is to give to others, it will help them grow up to be better people.

“My kids are really proud and excited to have seen their project through to the end. Now we’re hoping people will come on board and donate any surplus food to help those who don’t have enough. Especially with the cost of living being so high.”

MacDonald said the pataka kai was “a real community effort”: Designed and painted by the pupils, using paint donated by Guthrie Bowron Masterton, and constructed by her father, semi-retired builder David MacDonald, with wood supplied by a school parent.

The children also did a pamphlet drop to advertise the pātaka kai, and will now be responsible for “spreading the word” and promoting it among friends and whānau.

Year 4 pupil Isaac Singh said he was excited to see the donations come rolling in.

“It’s ridiculous how much more expensive food is. So, we’re excited to be able to help, and see what food people will bring.”

The pātaka kai was blessed by school parent and community educator Waireka Collings [Ngā Puhi, Ngai Te Rangi] – who invited the tamariki to place their hands on the pantry and say a karakia.

Collings congratulated the children on “doing the stuff that really matters – caring for the community.”

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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