Social supermarket opens in Whakatāne

HAND UP: Waiariki Whanau Mentoring board chair Waata Heathcote (second from right) with Whakatāne social supermarket Whare Āio staff Fabian Turner, Nikkita Kohu and Edward Clay. Photo Troy Baker E4788-16

Brianna Stewart

THE country’s 12th social supermarket has opened in Whakatāne, with aspirations of supporting 13,000 people in its first year.

The supermarket, named Whare Āio, is a Foodstuffs North Island initiative opened in partnership with local organisation Waiariki Whanau Mentoring.

About 140 people from around the country attended the opening yesterday morning, including East Coast MP Dana Kirkpatrick.

She said she believed in communities doing right by their communities, and paid tribute to the work of Waiariki Whanau Mentoring.

“If you change one life, the course of one journey for one whānau, that’s incredible – but I get the feeling you will change many.”

Ms Kirkpatrick said it was important to support initiatives such as Whare Āio, which made lives better, and she wanted to share its story across the country to demonstrate what happens when little communities take charge.

Each of the North Island’s social supermarkets is partnered with a local organisation, like Wellington City Mission, David Letele’s Buttabean Motivation or Waiariki Whanau Mentoring.

Foodstuffs North Island chief executive officer Chris Quin said it was important to choose the right group to work with, and the power of the energy in the room yesterday morning proved Waiariki Whanau Mentoring was the right choice.

Mr Quin acknowledged the wraparound services provided by the organisation – alongside food services it provides employment training, education, prison in-reach, reintegration, peer support, nursing, mental health, addiction, alcohol and drugs teams – and the work it had already done to get people “up and out”.

He said Waiariki Whānau Mentoring board chair Waata Heathcote’s strength, energy, and “take it all on and make it happen” attitude had been crucial in making the social supermarket happen.

Across the 11 other stores opened in the past three years, 35,000 families have accessed the service. Many no longer needed to use a social supermarket, Mr Quin said.

“I cannot wait to see the difference this one will make.”

Mr Heathcote said Whare Āio was a place of peace that would help the working poor; low-to-middle income earners who were struggling to stay afloat.

It is supported by coffee shop Resilience, with all profits being funnelled back to Whare Āio.

Mr Heathcote told those gathered yesterday that Resilience had already saved two lives.

“It’s not just a coffee shop. We know this space is going to help so many people.”

He was thankful for the opportunity to service the community.

“This was meant to be for us, this was meant to be for our community.”

Whare Āio will continue to be supported by Foodstuffs’ social supermarkets team and award-winning store New World Whakatāne, with owner Bruce Jenkins providing practical support.

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