Morningside is starting 2020 with a new asset to its community – a pātaka kai, or free food pantry - designed to foster stronger connections between residents.

Whangārei woman Brigid Sinclair has wanted to set up a free food pantry in Morningside for a while to encourage co-sharing between neighbours and to strengthen the community.

"The health of any society can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. Our society needs work. I know heaps of people regularly run out of food, and that's just horrific," Sinclair said.

The new pantry, which officially opens today, is outside the Korna Store on Morningside Rd and has been willingly accepted by owners Amish and Archina Patel.

"It's better for our community. I like the initiative Brigid has started," Amish Patel said.

Archina Patel, co-owner of the Korna Store, and Lance Baker paint a mural on the dairy that symbolises different local cultures. Photo / John Stone
Archina Patel, co-owner of the Korna Store, and Lance Baker paint a mural on the dairy that symbolises different local cultures. Photo / John Stone

With the help of neighbours Juliana Hoogeveen, Archina Patel, Brook Lyons and several children, and some generous paint donations Sinclair painted a large mandala mural on the wall behind the pātaka kai to celebrate its inclusion into Morningside culture.

"The circular designs symbolise the idea that life is never ending and everything is connected," she explained.

The idea behind a pātaka kai is to take what you need and leave what you can.

The pantry is accessible to anyone at all times, and no koha is required.

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Dreyson Rangi (right) and Lance Baker put finishing touches to the mandala mural. Photo / John Stone
Dreyson Rangi (right) and Lance Baker put finishing touches to the mandala mural. Photo / John Stone

The Morningside pātaka kai is one of several free food shelves across town which have proven successful for the communities.

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There is a pātaka kai at the Rust Ave Medical Centre, one next to Open Arms on Robert St, at Habitat for Humanity, one at Kererū Kindy on Bank St, and several in Tikipunga, Raumanga and Ōtangarei.

Onerahi has three – one on Waimahanga Rd, one on Kokich Cres and one on Raurimu Ave.

"A seemingly simple thing like putting a can of beans in the free pantry, or fresh veges or fruit, will encourage others into including this giving into their routine. Our people will be fed on many more levels than just our stomachs. It will help our community grow and come together."

Sinclair said she also loved to get people involved into projects, like painting the mandala mural, especially when they say they can't do something.

"It's all about empowering people who think they aren't good enough at something."

Her hope is that the Morningside community will take ownership of the pātaka kai and help look after it.

Dreyson Rangi is close friends with Sinclair's son and has helped to complete the mural outside the dairy.

"It's a good look on Morningside and having a pātaka kai is good for people in need. I think it's quite inspirational."