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Our vision: Lower Hutt – NZ’s healthiest people

Hutt Real Food Challenge inspires the next wave of food innovation

What change could we create from 50 passionate locals spending a weekend working together to improve the food system in the Hutt?

This is the question that sparked Healthy Families Lower Hutt, Hutt City Council and social enterprise incubator Enspiral to collaborate and create the Hutt Real Food Challenge.

Based on the concept of a “hackathon”, Hutt Real Food Challenge was a weekend event in February 2017 designed to find and develop local, innovative and creative solutions to address some of Hutt Valley’s food issues.

“Food security and accessibility are challenges for some of our neighbourhoods; access to affordable, fresh, healthy food is limited,” says Hayley Goodin, Healthy Families Lower Hutt Manager “Some of our communities are “food swamps”, places where the availability of unhealthy food far outweighs access to healthy food.”

In the Lower Hutt suburb of Naenae, 88% (15 out of 17) of available food outlets provided mainly unhealthy (high sugar, high fat) food options, with the remaining two outlets being butchers.  For many from this community, the closest supermarket involves two bus rides with at least a ten minute walk at each end of the journey, one of these carrying groceries.

“The time and cost associated with a supermarket shop shows that the healthy choice is certainly not always the easy choice, “ adds Goodin “We want to change that, creating equal access to more fresh and affordable food in the Hutt Valley.”

As a result of the Hutt Real Food Challenge weekend event, six project teams with venture concepts were selected to complete a six week follow up support series. The series brought together experts and mentors from a wide range of disciplines - from financial and business planning, to marketing, working with the teams to develop and refine their ideas.

Lisa Bridson from the Kete Food Share team says: “One of the most useful things from the support series was having other people on the same journey to bounce ideas off and share information with. We all had very different skills and experience so we learnt from each other as well as our expert mentors.” 

With the intention behind the Hutt Real Food Challenge to build local capability and capacity for healthy food ventures, seed funding support has seen three teams now set up and running. Eight months on, the proof is in their ability to create positive change to the local food environment and deliver to their communities.

Quick Kai – delicious and nutritious fundraising venture

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Quick Kai is an idea born out of the frustration of not having a healthy fundraising option to choose from at school. Led by Jocelyn Reddy, Head of Technology at Wainuiomata High School, the initiative has become the faculty and students’ real life product development project, from recipe development to logo design and budgeting.

With an aim to create a healthy kai product available for any organisation to use for fundraising, Quick Kai will also give back to the community through a supply arrangement with the local food bank.

The NCEA Level 3 Food Technology students have developed two recipes so far, a curry and muesli option made of dry foods, that when combined with a few simple fresh ingredients make delicious and nutritious meals.

“It seems silly being a food teacher and then giving students unhealthy options to sell,” says Reddy. “It is very important to me that students learn to eat healthily.”

The initiative is working well with Quick Kai raising funds for Wainuiomata High School’s Girls Football team to attend a national tournament.

Kete Food Share – food rescue and share store

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Kete Food Share’s founder Lisa Bridson shared a whakatauākī at the Hutt Real Food Challenge showcase event: Ko koe ki tena, ko au ki enei kiwai o te kete, meaning, You take that handle, I’ll take this handle and together, we can achieve anything. This has become one of the founding principles behind Kete Food Share which brings together local businesses and volunteers to address food waste and food poverty in the Hutt community.

Bridson, who is also a local Councillor and sits on the Hutt Valley District Health Board, was motivated to join the Hutt Real Food Challenge after seeing a gap in her community.

“People are struggling to put food on the table while cafes are throwing food away. Kete Food Share rescues that food and gives it to people who need it,” she shares. “What makes us different to other food rescue or food bank initiatives is that we are more than just a collection point; we sit together and share the food as a way of connecting the community.”

Based out of the ReMakery, a shared space run by Common Unity Project Aotearoa for its local projects and community, Kete Food Share is now operating three evenings a week redistributing food to whanau in the Epuni and Naenae communities.

People’s kitchen – commercially registered kitchen for community to use

People’s kitchen is an initiative run out of the Petone Depot, a not for profit social enterprise that collaborates, engages and builds community through events and activities.

The idea of People’s Kitchen is to get the kitchen at the Petone Depot up to standard so it can be commercially registered. A registered kitchen will add social enterprise, employment and education opportunities to the existing community cooking, fundraising and koha events.

Leila Macbeth from Peoples Kitchen Petone says "We know that access to good food helps build strong communities. A registered neighbourhood kitchen will create opportunities for people to make, share and sell great food."

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