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Fresh approach to serving up healthy affordable kai

Fresh approach to serving up healthy affordable kai

When Healthy Families Waitakere embarked on a partnership with two West Auckland supermarkets, the goal was to increase the availability and affordability of healthy food for Ranui and Glen Eden communities.

But the initiative served up much more for countless social services operators and families nationwide.

The concept ‘Local Choice’ was developed following a co-design process involving stakeholders and members of the community as a solution to the issues facing families around providing healthy affordable meals. Local Choice enables families to provide five nutritionally sound dinners to feed six people, for under $60.

“We know that involving the community in developing a solution has much better likelihood of success and the insights from our community told us that people wanted more affordable, healthier food available in West Auckland,” says Healthy Families Waitakere Manager, Kerry Allan.

“Our goal was to activate and support local systems capable of delivering this – a community model with the potential to be upscaled at a later stage if successful.”

Community and other stakeholders were brought together to contribute and provide suitable recipe ideas, including vegetarian options.  Auckland Council and Love Food Hate Waste also contributed with information focused on preventing food waste, and assisted with the meal planner development.

The first opportunity for the community to access Local Choice was in May 2017 when families could select from five weekly sets of recipes, with a focus around winter produce.  A shopping list guided shoppers in gathering the ingredients for the dinner meals, while store layout, allocated shelf space and signage in the participating supermarkets was designed to help.  The concept was promoted via a number of local platforms.

Ellie Mackwood, a West Auckland mother of nine year old twins, was one of the first customers to use Local Choice.

“It took away the requirement to think about what to cook each night, and I felt like I was doing the right thing by my kids in terms of healthy food.  It also changed the family’s eating patterns for the better,” says Ellie.  “We started eating legumes – I’d never used them before except split peas in soup.  I now routinely use lentils in our meat patties recipe.”

Kerry says the partnership with a community-oriented supermarket owner allowed experimentation with a solution that ultimately benefitted hundreds of families locally. 

“It could inform local whānau and the wider community about cost-effective, healthy meal options while building their knowledge, attitudes and skills for accessing and preparing simple healthy, tasty food on a budget,” says Kerry.

Healthy Families Waitakere, acting as a broker, generated wide interest from more than 20 social services organisations who on-promoted the concept to their clients.

“This represented a significant step in the initiative.  The concept of enabling the delivery of affordable meals had been escalated within local social services groups with excellent take up.  We also saw it grow organically, as participants promoted the concept with others,” adds Kerry.

For local champions like the Salvation Army Waitakere, Local Choice provided a valuable tool for helping families eat well and affordably.  The content was also adapted into monthly cooking workshops for the community.

Faith Bishop Nahu, financial mentoring case worker and co-ordinator of the food bank at Salvation Army Waitakere, said she was amazed at the $60 budget and was quick to try it herself and introduce it to staff, before sharing it within her networks and educating food bank users about the initiative.

“We gave meal demonstrations to show them how to use Local Choice and how to use the ingredients, especially things like beans which are often not taken from the food pantry,” says Faith.

“It was well received, and helped promote better eating.  We had clients who had previously bought takeaways thinking they were cheaper, but then tried Local Choice and started cooking together with their kids.”

In November, the concept attracted the attention of WasteMINZ who identified the potential of using the recipe booklet as part of their nationwide Love Food Hate Waste campaign. Since then, ‘Easy Choice – Family Kai’ seasonal healthy meal planner has been enthusiastically welcomed with more than 12,000 downloads within the first few days.

So did it serve up healthy and affordable kai where it all started?

“Yes, but the reality is much more than that.  The initial Local Choice model has provided the community access to and education on how to cook healthy food across West Auckland,” says Kerry.

“The initiative delivered a model which many social service providers could then take and implement within their own networks – a true win-win that helps our community live healthier lives.”

Vegetable gardening returning to our communities

Vegetable gardening returning to our communities

Eighty families in Waitakere are now benefiting from growing, harvesting and cooking with vegetables from their backyard gardens. After attending workshops that covered how to compost, build a garden bed and look after the plants, these families embarked on a journey to provide nourishing food for their whanau. With 50% of these families now cooking with the vegetables most days of the week and 80% at least once a week, we are seeing a sustainable shift in the food consumed by our communities.

Since having their own backyard garden, families have made savings by growing and cooking with vegetables that they previously would have bought from a store. For example a Ranui family no longer need to buy spinach and silverbeet as they now grow enough to feed their family.

Being able to utilise freshly picked vegetables in family meals is a significant motivator for these families to continue to grow more vegetables. A number of families are saving on waste and producing less rubbish as well as having a little more money in their pockets. These gardens are not only benefiting each family but many have shared their surplus of vegetables with wider family members, friends, neighbours and even foodbanks.

The Pasifika Arts Centre at Corbans Estate Henderson have two gardens that have become a hub for over 100 Pasifika people. 14 Pasifika groups regularly attend the Centre and have embraced the gardens as a means to re-ignite traditional gardening methods. The Centre also plans to increase the number of gardens beds and plant taro on the grass bank.

The gardens have prompted these families to share their knowledge and skills with the wider community and 10 more Pasifika families have since developed vegetable gardens in their own back yards, “The gardens have strengthened our sense of community, by creating a space to gather, share and learn about gardening and our environment.”

Corbans Estate are now seeing the value in their space being used to support local food production and will work with the Pasifika community to extend the gardens to cater for the increased demand.

Healthy Families Waitakere worked alongside key stakeholders, My Backyard Garden Project, Pasifika Vision and Compost Collective at Auckland Council, to coordinate the workshops and installation of the garden beds that are now reaping benefits for the wider community.

“A critical element to the sustainability has been connecting these families with each other and the stakeholders that can support them with training, education and materials”, says Healthy Families Waitakere Manager, Kerry Allan.

Where recreation meets conservation

Where recreation meets conservation

Healthy Families Waitakere are taking a position to support the recent Rāhui (customary ban) placed on the Waitakere Ranges by local iwi and are working with local leaders to create alternative opportunities to be physically active.

The proposed closure by Te Kawerau a Maki and Auckland Council will protect Auckland’s largest Kauri tree population and native bush by excluding the public who have been contributing to the spread of Kauri dieback disease.

The Waitākere Ranges is an area of national, regional and local significance. Over 1 million visitors annually walk, bike, run and take part in events in the Ranges. Healthy Families Waitakere are taking action to support those who would usually access the Ranges to keep active and identify alternative physical activity opportunities for the large number of visitors to West Auckland.   

Healthy Families Waitakere are bringing community leaders together to find ways to leverage existing community assets and infrastructure such as the 135 parks and reserves, 36 sports fields and the network of walkways and cycle ways.

The team will also work with regional and local partners to prioritise investment in urban tracks, walkways and coastal routes and raise public awareness about the alternative physical activity options.  

Auckland councillor Penny Hulse is keen to ensure Auckland Council fully support the work of Healthy Families Waitakere which will ensure ongoing use of the existing urban tracks and walkways.

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan says being physically active has significant benefits to people’s health and wellbeing and connecting with our natural environment is important for our future generations.     

 “By working with local and regional partners, we can collectively ensure our community still participate in regular physical activities that they enjoy.”


Kelston Girls College take the first steps to becoming a ‘pro water’ school

Kelston Girls College take the first steps to becoming a ‘pro water’ school

Healthy Families Waitakere have been working alongside all twelve of our secondary schools to drive sustainable changes in each school through the leadership of staff and students. One high school, Kelston Girls College have taken the first steps to making long term change by promoting water as the first choice during class and while being active. 

School Nurse Pat Hutchinson was successful in negotiating a change with their vending machine provider Sanitarium, to increase the amount water in the machines. They have agreed to limit the number of other drinks to only one row. Prior to the change, most drinks available contained sugar.

“We encourage our girls to drink water at school primarily to keep hydrated, reduce headaches and improve concentration” says Pat.

Athletics Day and School Cross Country events in 2018 are also being used as an opportunity to promote water.  Sport Activator Jamie Lane believes sport has a role in not only promoting regular forms of physical activity but can be used as a vehicle to promote positive health messages.

Jamie has been proactive in supporting the student committee to consider ways to promote water before, and during the Athletics Day and School Cross Country events.

"Senior management and staff are supporting the promotion of drinking water and other student-led health and wellness initiatives that will hopefully grow year to year and allow the students to feel good about themselves long term", he says.

In addition to sporting events, water has also been included in the curriculum with Year 9 and 10 students exploring water as a topic during enquiry week in Term 4, 2017. Students learnt about water sustainability, water systems and the benefits of drinking water.

This fantastic example of leadership at Kelston Girls College is just the beginning. Their efforts to create a healthier school environment where water is the easiest choice is all part of a movement happening across Waitakere where community champions, organisations and sports clubs are choosing water as the best and first choice of drink. This is a further step to eliminating excess sugary drink consumption in young people. 

To see more, visit their website 

Image: School Nurse Pat Hutchinson and Sport Activator Jamie Lane with their newly stocked vending machine

Community Hub leadership brings healthy food to the local community

Community Hub leadership brings healthy food to the local community

Teams across community hubs and houses in West Auckland are passionate about making a difference in their local community. With more than 34,800 locals coming through the doors each year and a high number of youth, community hub staff have a deep understanding about the needs of their community.

Healthy Families Waitakere convened a number of community hub members, Not-for-Profit organisations and Auckland Council representatives to go through an exciting co-design process to create a series of healthy food initiatives based on what they know will work for their communities and their experiences with local residents.

To reignite community interest in gardening to promote good health, Green Bay Community House held a working bee to initiate a group of interested gardeners to meet monthly and develop a community vegetable garden on-site. In addition to the garden, the team have run a series of workshops to residents on beekeeping.

Titirangi Community House built a small veranda vegetable garden to show people how to grow food in small spaces. They too, ran workshops on beekeeping and offered sessions on worm farming to their local neighbourhood. Produce from the veranda garden has used in children’s cooking classes, an initiative set up by the hub to ensure the garden was well utilised. 

Manutewhau Hub took a youth focus to address high sugary drink consumption among young people. The hub staff integrated health and wellness into their holiday programme where 30 children learnt about sugar in drinks, healthy eating, and planted a garden. 

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan says this is the first time this network of community hub and house representatives have come together to address the challenges their community face around making healthier choices.

“These are great examples of what Healthy Families NZ is all about – community leadership enabling change in places where people spend their time.  We are thrilled to be supporting the Community hubs and houses in their work to address issues in their community”, says Kerry.

Image: Titirangi Community House Coordinator and their veranda vegetable garden

Popular cultural events are back with a difference

Popular cultural events are back with a difference

Healthy Families Waitakere is driving changes to signature events out West to create an environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice.
Healthy Families Waitakere worked alongside Auckland Council, Auckland Regional Public Health Service, and Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura to create healthier food and beverage guidelines for community-led events across the region. 

The new guidelines are in line with the Ministry of Health’s National Healthy Food and Drink Policy guidelines and include practical ideas and tips for food vendors to provide healthier and more affordable food options at events.

Auckland Councillor Penny Hulse is keen to ensure Auckland Council fully supports the work of Healthy Families Waitakere to influence the provision of food at events. 

“Affordable opportunities for healthy food and water instead of sugary fizzy drinks should be made available at all our events”, she says

Healthy Families Waitakere worked with event organisers and food vendors at the Henderson Christmas Festival and the Waitakere Diwali Festival to implement the new guidelines, reaching over 13,000 event attendees. 

In December 2017, event organisers for Henderson-Massey Local Board’s annual Henderson Christmas Festival took a stand by including vendors who applied the guidelines. The event had plenty of healthy food options and water was the cheapest drink on the night. The changes proved to be so successful that Henderson Massey Local Board will adopt the guidelines for future Local Board events.  

The Waitakere Indian Association committed to using the guidelines and included Healthy Families Waitakere in their briefing to vendors for the Waitakere Diwali Festival held in October 2017. Vendors made changes to their event menus and reduced the number of sweets and cakes available on the day. The Waitakere Indian Association are proactively working with food vendors for their next event to encourage further changes.

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan said both events showed that making these healthy changes was widely accepted as a positive step by the community. 

“By bringing regional and local leadership together to build the capability of event providers and food vendors, we can create many health promoting environments. Gaining support from our local community event organisers to apply the guidelines at two events has been a huge success and we look forward to more events offering healthier food and beverage options to their attendees in 2018”. 

Image: Henderson Christmas Festival