Lexia Popata likes helping people.

So when she heard there were people in her community needing food, she decided to do something about it.

The Whangārei woman is behind the city's first Pātaka Kai - Pātaka Raurimu - an outdoor open street pantry where people can take food they need, and donate what they can.

"It's like a little dairy and it's all free," she said.

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The Pātaka Kai movement has seen street pantries pop up all over the country - including in Northland.

Popata first heard about one in Hastings and thought it was a good idea so decided to open one in Raurimu Ave where she lives.

She said she has had help from the community from the very beginning with people donating their time to build it - including a father of six who built the pantry roof on Father's Day, and Canvas and Covers Whangārei who donated a door for the pantry.

"I'm overwhelmed by the aroha from everyone - it's just give give give."

Popata said it was also the community who got the pantry running. She was lying down after work one morning when her niece ran in and told her people were putting food in the pantry.

"They started it for me, more or less. There were quite a few people wondering what I was building and some people clicked on. Food Rescue gave some fruit and bread and that's when I thought I might as well pull everything out and start without a roof and without a door."

The pantry is now open 24/7. In addition to the food in the pantry she has meat in her freezer and butter in the fridge. She writes what she has in stock on a blackboard and people can ring a bell and ask for the kai.

"People say 'you're doing an amazing job, hope you get blessed' people just stop and say something and they don't want anything."

Popata said she has put together food parcels for families in need, and donated to Pātaka Kai in Ōtangarei, Kokich Cres and Waimahanga Rd too.

She said recently people have been taking and not giving, but she suspects that's because it is the school holidays.

Other than that people have been generous.

"One lady and her two sons donated two boxes of groceries. She went to New World and brought all of these groceries and treasures - you name it she did it and she didn't want anything."

Ruakaka Dog Rescue even donated pet food.

She said seeing how successful it was made her happy.

"I'm just happy everyone's happy. They know it's just down the road, instead of going to the shop it's here."

Popata said she has a tin to collect donations which she will use to build a small storage shed because she's taking over her daughter's garage with food.

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