Two Tauranga churches have joined forces to provide a free meal to up to 100 people at the Arataki Community Centre once every fortnight.

Organisers hope the initiative, which had been running for 10 months, would identify needs in the suburb and kick-start programmes to address local issues.

C3 church pastor, 32-year-old Tamati Cameron said the project was twofold and not just about giving people a hot dinner.

Youth in the area that frequented the local skate park believed "no-one cares about them", he said.


"We are trying to build up trust with them at the moment and create a relationship.

"Eventually we want to start a youth programme but it will take time because they have got to tell us what they want."

Mosaic Church congregation member Jake Mclean, who helped set up the community meal, said youth needed support.

"There is a lot of youth around here that are getting into trouble because they haven't got much to do. I think they are hanging around out of boredom and making a bit of a nuisance out of themselves.

"At this stage we are not offering too much advice as I don't think we have the right to do that until we know them better."

Supporting the disadvantaged was important to the physiotherapist.

"I have a heart for the poor and the disadvantaged. I guess you could say it's about justice and not ignoring those needs but playing a part."

Community meal cook Teresa Wetini starts preparing tea at 3pm. The night the Bay of Plenty Times visited she had a huge pot of mince chowmein on the boil that would be served with noodles and cabbage.

She was also opening up dented tins of fruit salad that had been donated and would be served with icecream.

"The food today cost me $114 to feed 80 to 100 people, which is amazing really and I can usually get it down to under $2 a head."

The churches split the grocery bill between them, she said. A bakery gave them bread and Owen Ngaropo gifted vegetables from the Papamoa Community Garden.