Thieves have stolen food destined for students at Ruakaka and it's not the first time the community kitchen has been targeted.

When workers arrived to start preparing food for Ruakaka Primary School yesterday they discovered a chiller at the Hare Krishna Food For Life kitchen on Water St, Whangarei, had been broken into and crates of vegetables stolen. A large tray of butter was also taken.

Hundreds of uncooked cinnamon rolls on expensive trays, being prepared for sale at the Whangarei Growers Market, were taken in a previous theft and in another break-in trays of samosas were pilfered.

Volunteer Vanessa Lassman said it was heartbreaking to think people were stealing from a charitable organisation that was established to help the needy: "If people were hungry and wanted to be fed they could just come in the front door of the cafe and we would feed them."

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While the theft of the food was disappointing it was the cost of replacing the damaged locks on the chiller and the loss of the trays at $70 each that hurt financially.

"We are looking at putting a bar right across the chiller now and that will be hundreds of dollars that we can't really afford."

She said fortunately their creative chef was able to make do with what remained and the Ruakaka children enjoyed a delicious meal.

The Hare Krishna Food For Life kitchen was set up in December 2011 after Krishna devotees in Whangarei noticed increasing levels of poor and hungry people in the city and decided to do something about it.

Buddhi Wilcox, who set up the centre, is always amazed at the response to the kitchen, particularly from people donating vegetables for the meals.

The kitchen produces hot vegetarian lunches for 1000 children a week through the Food for Life in Schools programme in Northland. Dishes such as vegetarian shepherd's pie, lentils, pasta, banana fritters, apple crumble and rice pudding are served once a week to children at five schools for $1 per meal.