Tauranga's Te Tuinga Trust has launched a food catering initiative to help educate people who have experienced homelessness and unemployment learn how to cook.

Happy Puku's food truck took its first orders at the Tauranga Moana Tauranga Tangata Festival in Welcome Bay on Saturday.

Head chef Stephen Wilson said the food truck was up and running as of last week and was "in its raw stages".

Working alongside the Tutarawananga Māori Women's Welfare League Tauranga to promote healthy kai, the food truck hired people in Te Tuinga Whanau's emergency housing and taught them the basics of cooking during a 10-week programme.


They are paid to work at the food truck, with the ultimate goal of finding full or part-time employment in the hospitality industry.

"They are what it is for, this is what it is all about," Wilson said. "They love it."

Wilson said there were no expectations, just a helping hand into hospitality.

'It is giving the girls employment and a better quality of life. They have been disconnected and now they are connected," he said.

"It is like giving them a jumper lead to life. They have got a house and now they have employment."

Wilson was working with Swiss chef Remy Zibung, who came on board after falling in love with the initiative.

Remy Zibung said the aim was to teach people who have experienced homelessness about the basics of cooking and preparation.

"How to chop vegetables without cutting your fingernail, hygiene, washing your hands... we are always cleanly dressed," he said.


Janine Cork joined Te Tuinga Whanau about a year ago after needing to relocate from an "unhealthy" home.

"First of all, I was living in a house that wasn't great," she said. "Now I have my beautiful house to stay in."

Cork had not learned to cook properly before and was now enjoying taking orders and helping to make healthy burgers for her customers.

"I now not only have a house but I've got a job," she said.

- On-job training and coaching - practising Te Reo in the kitchen, health and safety, food hygiene, knife skills, food preparation, food presentation
- Any profit made is returned to The Happy Puku
- Have 10 persons employed and after a time of training and work experience getting the liveable wage
- Goal is to see workers find full-time employment in the hospitality industry and to have amazing healthy tasty food and excellent customer service
Source: The Happy Puku