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Our vision: Lower Hutt – NZ’s healthiest people

Gangsta Gardener hits the Hutt for Visa Wellington on a Plate

Ron Finley uses gardening as a tool and metaphor for community transformation. Healthy Families Lower Hutt, Te Awakairangi Health Network and Hutt City Council are proud to be supporting Ron to come to Lower Hutt in August in partnership with Visa Wellington on a Plate.

"We're excited about Ron coming and sharing his compelling story. Ron has used gardening as a way of highlighting the lack of health equity in his community and challenging the status quo to create access to healthy food, while bringing the community together," says Matt Reid, General Manager, City and Community Services and Chair of the Healthy Families Lower Hutt Leadership Group.

Hailing from South Central Los Angeles, Ron knows what it’s like to live in an area without access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Known as the Gangsta Gardener, Ron started urban gardening in his LA neighbourhood in 2010. Ron’s goal was simple; bring healthy food to an area where there was none. Ron decided he did not want to live in a food prison anymore so he began to plant his own food. This simple logic inspired Ron’s mission to turn food prisons into food forests. He inspires communities to grow sustainable gardens with the goal of transforming unused city spaces into gardens and providing a healthy alternative to fast foods. Ron's TedTalk has had over 3 million views.

Ron’s visit to Wainuiomata builds on the recent activity at the Whai Oranga community garden, where a collective community effort from stakeholders and community alike has seen different generations come together to bring life back to the space. By growing kai together, people reconnect with their environment, at the same time strengthening community connections and accessing local and cultural knowledge.

He Kai, He Whenuais a free community event in Wainuiomata on Friday 17 August from 4-7pm. The event is an opportunity to celebrate how community’s role as kaitiaki of māra kai is transforming our communities, and to hear Ron's story. We will be getting our hands dirty building garden beds before sharing kai at the end of the event. Local groups TiHei Rangatahi, Wainuiomata Marae and Love Wainuiomata are working together to be the community hosts for this event. 

The name of the event, He Kai, He Whenua, is inspired by a Māori proverb: “Te toto o te tangata, he kai, Te oranga o te tangata, he whenua.” This translates to, “While food provides blood in our veins, our health is drawn from the lands,” and shows the importance Māori place on land and its connection to our health and prosperity. The event aims to challenge the status quo and inspire communities to collectively take back and own their health and wellbeing. 

Ron will also be featuring at the Gangsta Food Gathering organised by the Common Unity Project Aotearoa. They will host a dinner at the Remakery with Ron on Saturday 18 August. Produce for the meal will be sourced from their micro-urban farms and the event will include a tour of these, as well as mural painting and preparing sustainable products to take home.

Imagine if good food was easily available and affordable for everyone, where growing and sharing good food was a normal part of everyday life.