Generous local community members are giving up their time, money, and resources to cook nutritious family meals to keep freezers well-stocked around Tauranga and Western Bay through the charity Kura Kai.
Kura Kai was established in 2020 after Founder Makaia Carr was asked to put the ‘call out’ for volunteers to cook for her local school’s compassion freezer. Inspired by this idea, Carr decided this concept had value across the motu and created Kura Kai.
Based on quality, not quantity, Kura Kai focuses on supporting High School aged rangatahi via their Kura Kai Rangatahi Initiative. A completed secondary school education is so important to the future of rangatahi, setting them up for their next step in life.
Ensuring that partnered schools are well supported, rather than aiming to be partnered with every high school, rangatahi are encouraged to practise manaakitanga. Being taught the value of caring for their community through cooking meals. Schools can help be part of the solution to the numerous problems whānau face due to high living costs.
General Manager Marie Paterson says everyone needs help at some stage in their life.
“There could be a bereavement, health issue or loss of employment in the whānau, making it a struggle to put kai on the dinner table that week. Having meals on hand that are easily accessible helps fuel the minds of rangatahi so they can learn,” says Paterson.
The unique and empowering factor of Kura Kai is that rangatahi can take meals home to feed their whānau and community. With no wait times to get access to meals, it’s instant support.
Schools' only requirement is to identify and hand out the kai to rangatahi in need, with Volunteer Coordinators able to receive requests from teachers or students as they need food.
Volunteers, teachers and school staff are at the heart of this organisation, demonstrating true manaakitanga and embodying the values of Kura Kai to care for the rangatahi and broader community in their area.
Kura Kai Volunteer Coordinator’s tap into their networks of Volunteer Cooks when meals are requested from teachers.
Although high schools are the main focus, Kura Kai also supplies meals to the broader community when able to and has seen the benefit of bringing communities together by providing an avenue to volunteer and help their local community when they can.
Kura Kai currently operates via eight schools or youth-based programmes throughout Tauranga and the Western Bay. These are Aquinas College, Katikati College, Mount Maunganui College, Ōtūmoetai College, Pāpāmoa College, Tauranga Girls College and Te Puke High School, as well as Bay of Plenty Youth Development Trust.
The Kura Kai Rangatahi Initiative offers rangatahi the opportunity to feel empowered. Students can be involved in cooking meals, right through to coordinating Kura Kai within their school.
Integrating the initiative into the broader life and culture of schools has many benefits and teaches rangatahi vital life skills such as cooking healthy meals, project planning, all whilst experiencing the benefits of helping others and obtaining unit standards for this work.
TECT funded Kura Kai $10,000 in late 2023 to support operational costs so more focus and finances could be put towards purchasing chest freezers and resources donated to the High Schools supported by Kura Kai.
TECT Trustee, Mark Arundel says the purpose of the community trust is to benefit the people and community of the Tauranga and Western Bay district.
“By supporting Kura Kai, not only are we supporting rangatahi of our region to be well fed during a time of rising food prices and cost of living, but we are also supporting an initiative supporting the future of these rangatahi.”
“Volunteers throughout Tauranga and Western Bay are supporting others out of their own kindness,” says Arundel, “This is helping teach our rangatahi the values of manaakitanga to care for themselves, their whānau, and their community.”
Fast forward to today, Kura Kai has made a positive impact throughout the local region, as well as across many communities throughout Aotearoa. With the organisation now present nationwide within 39 high schools, Kura Kai continues to bring together hundreds of volunteers and students to fill the freezers in partnered schools every term