The Kai Ora Fund has supported more projects than ever in its latest round of grants, all aimed at giving people access to healthy food and supporting sustainable community and economic growth in Northland.

It now has three new partners, is covering two new districts, and this time funded 26 new projects chosen from a record number of applications.

The fund is a partnership between the Far North District Council, Te Tai Tokerau PHO, Te Puni Kōkiri, Northland Inc and Manaia Health PHO. It has now supported 56 projects since it was founded in 2015.

Manaia Health PHO health promotion manager Ngaire Rae said the number and quality of applications this year had been impressive.


"It's very exciting to see the energy and passion in the community around local food. We can't wait to see what this round of projects will achieve," she said.

New projects included growing watercress, creating backyard garden boxes at 50 homes in Kawakawa, school-based garden-to-table programmes and Te Ropu Herara Hokianga (the Hokianga Herald Group — Kohukohu Community Trust), which aims to encourage the growing and selling of healthy food to increase self-sufficiency and reduce the need to travel for more than an hour to the nearest supermarket.

The plan includes setting up a co-operative food mart and distribution system in Kohukohu linked to growers, gardeners and the community. Funding was also granted for the development and expansion of a Youth Innovations Smoothie Bar in Kaitaia (Far North Safer Community Council).

The concept has been trialled at Kaitaia College and the town's market, and plans to expand to provide young people with work skills and healthy options for the community at events, markets and in the main street.

Kaitiaki o Te Kai Whenua (Ngāti Kahu Social and Health Services) plans to work with the community and volunteers to establish and maintain a garden to provide low-income families with fresh produce at discounted prices, and also to distribute vegetables to community organisations and marae that promote healthy kai.

Meanwhile Kai Pai, Kai Tika, Kai Ora (Te Hauora o Ngāpuhi) is in the initial stages of developing a gardening project where seven marae around Kaikohe will grow and share food. Each marae will specialise in one particular crop, the initial phase trialling the concept with two marae.

Project teams have connected with each other at Kai Ora workshops, and many will now work together for an even bigger impact. Daniela Johnson, Kai Ora co-ordinator at Te Tai Tokerau PHO, said the fund would make more grants next year, and was keen to hear from groups that might be interested in applying or contributing to current projects.

"We fund projects that will make healthy, local, sustainable food easily available throughout Tai Tokerau, and we're here to encourage and support those who share this dream and passion," said.