A neighbourhood approach to The Regenerative Kai System.
In the heart of Whanganui, where the soil tells stories of generations past and the community spirit thrives like the crops they cultivate, Aramoho and Papaiti are sowing the seeds of change. This isn't just about food; it's about a movement, a regenerative force that's reshaping the very essence of wellbeing in our neighbourhoods. Welcome to the story of Good Kai, a nourishment for the hinengaro, puku, and ngākau, where a community-led revolution is transforming the way we eat, connect, and thrive together.
The neighbouring suburbs of Aramoho and Papaiti are leading a transformative charge towards well-being through their Regenerative Kai System. This hyper-localised initiative is not just about growing food; it's about cultivating kai sovereignty and building a model that could have a profound impact, inspiring similar initiatives throughout the Whanganui rohe.
This initiative, is being spearheaded by Dave Hursthouse, Kai Systems Innovator for Healthy Families Whanganui, Rangitīkei, Ruapehu. Dave brings not only expertise but a profound commitment to community well-being, recently culminating in the completion of his Ph.D., where he explored "Making sense of what it is to be Tangata Tiriti" with a focus on enhancing outcomes for all.
Dave's influence extends beyond academia into the heart of community-driven initiatives, particularly as a backbone facilitator leading to the establishment of the Whanganui Kai Hub. This dynamic hub, a testament to collaborative efforts and waste minimisation, emerged from the Kai Ora: Whanganui Kai Collective, a community-driven initiative promoting sustainable local food systems.
Whanganui Kai Hub Coordinator joins our Healthy Families Whānau
Integral to this transformative journey is Sol Walsh, the coordinator of the Whanganui Kai Hub. Sol is from Tauranga Moana, raised in Uawa and later Turanganui-ā-Kiwa and settled in Whanganui in the last three years. Sol has worked in the area of hospitality, specifically leading teams in Cafes, restaurants and fast food establishments. Through this experience he saw a lot of food waste generated in the pursuit of profit. Sol has been instrumental in the hub's success, facilitating the redistribution of excess kai to the community and championing the message that, accessing free kai is nothing to be whakamā (ashamed) about:
“We’re trying to breakdown this stigma that free kai is only for those that need it, and trying to say that kai is for everyone” “I would like the opinion of free kai in Whanganui to be viewed like free wifi, you can pay for it and get a high quality product, but if you know where to go its not too hard to get it for free and accessing free wifi is nothing to be whakamā about”.
Sol Walsh, now a part-time Systems Innovator with Healthy Families Whanganui, Rangitīkei, Ruapehu, will be working closely with Dave, embodying their shared dedication to community well-being.
Neighbours connecting with neighbours
The neighbourhood approach to the regenerative Kai System is about the redesign of the local end-to-end supply chain—a shift from an industrial, corporate food system that drives food poverty and insecurity to a local regenerative kai system that champions food resilience and security.
Activations across the neighbourhood are live, with partners and communities driving the change. These include, monthly community dinners held at Te Ao Hou Marae. These meals, characterised by vibrant energy, see a diverse community coming together—40 to 80 people each month—to share various foods, fostering a sense of whanaungatanga. These meals extend beyond mere nourishment; they are about building relationships, strengthening the community fabric, and creating a lasting network. The spirit of collaboration is evident as fresh kai from the Learning Environment and local growers is shared, and any surplus finds its way to the Whanganui Kai Hub for distribution to those in need.
In a recent Facebook post, Mayor Andrew Tripe expressed:
"I had the privilege of attending a community shared dinner at Te Ao Hou Marae. Carolyn (my wife) and Geoff Hipango were also there making it a very special evening with an amazing variety of delicious kai! This is a true example of how communities work – bringing people together to share life, food, and stories. Head along with your shared plate on the first Thursday of each month."
Geoffrey Hīpango, kaitiaki (caretaker) of Te Ao Hou Marae, also shared:
"The monthly community dinners held at marae are now well established after a year and basically run themselves. Thanks also to Dave Hursthouse as we decided to just give it a go and see what happens. I must admit I look forward to this every month. Tables are set up and now the people come and get to know each other over a shared meal. The age spread is wide and reflects the diversity of our community. It's relaxed and very casual."
The momentum generated by this community-led initiative has opened doors to more than just shared meals; it has cultivated a collective passion for growing and nurturing our kai together.
Growing Kai Together
Through the Regenerative Kai System, the community in Aramoho and Papaiti is not just envisioning change; they are actively participating in it. Responding to the community's desire to grow kai together, the para kūmara at Pīwakawaka became a learning environment.
Last year at Pīwakawaka the community was invited to harvest kūmara, an educational experience where they learned the intricacies of planting, when to plant, and the art of digging up and storage of kūmara, aligning kūmara growing with the maramataka, and sharing stories of kūmara, old and new. The harvested kūmara were saved and laid in tāpapa beds this winter to grow this seasons tipu (shoots). These tipu have been distributed to the community, providing opportunities for whānau, whare, marae, kura, and organisations to grow kūmara this summer.
Additionally, The Born & Raised Pasifika Early Childhood Centre has took a bold step in bringing this vision to life by creating an edible learning environment. Together with local kaimahi, whānau, and tamariki, a beautiful orchard space surrounding the kura has been established, creating opportunities for local children to connect with their food sources. Acknowledging the importance of communal spaces, key hubs like Pasifika Born & Raised, Te Ao Hou Marae, and the Learning Environment play a crucial role in realising the broader goal of localising the kai system in Aramoho and Papaiti.
These initiatives are a pivotal part of enhancing the momentum of the Aramoho-Papaiti Kai Sovereignty Movement, focusing on growing local kai systems to enhance community resilience as a response to climate emergencies. The community is consistently coming together in a smaller focused Kai Collective, influencing regional kai policy, and supporting local kai initiatives like the Whanganui Kai Hub, Born & Raised Pasifika Community Orchard, and māra kai initiatives.
A thriving kai system nourishes the physical, spiritual, and social expressions of the people it feeds, upholding the mana and well-being of our communities. Returning to food systems that uphold kai sovereignty allows communities to affirm their relationship with the whenua, wai, and ancestors every day. Communities hold the answers to reorienting the food system to improve wellbeing. Around Aotearoa, we are hearing communities insisting that now is the time to move toward sustainable food systems, which are regenerative and resilient; prioritise locally grown and affordable kai; and uphold mātauranga, kaitiakitanga, and rangatiratanga.
If we use what we collectively know, work together, and take action locally, regionally, and nationally, we have the best opportunity to make good kai a reality for all our people.