Kaitaia already has at least two, and now Kaikohe residents who find their cupboards bare also have somewhere to go for help - and people whose gardens produce more than they can eat have somewhere to donate their surplus.

Paataka Kai o Kaikohekohe was officially opened in the foyer of the Kaikohe Library by deputy Mayor Tania McInnes and children from Kaikohe East School.

The idea is that people can donate fresh produce, healthy non-perishable food or other basic needs for others to take if they have run out of food. A sign urges people to 'Take a little if your cupboard is bare, or give a little if you have food to spare.'

It was blessed by council kaumatua Ted Wihongi, who remembered how every family in Kaikohe had had a thriving vegetable garden in the 1950s, and how Kaikohe was considered a food basket long before that because of its good soil and lake teeming with eels.


The project was led by Kaikohe woman Lee Mason, who is also part of a team that organises a free community breakfast every Christmas.

The paataka kai would help tend to physical and spiritual needs in Kaikohe, she said, adding that she was grateful to the local businesses that had donated the shelves, and food, and to the library for allowing the paataka kai in their foyer, where it would be safe.

"The response has been awesome. People really want to be able to help," Ms Mason said.

She hoped it would encourage others to set up similar initiatives in their streets.

Recent months have seen an explosion in paataka kai, also called street pantries or community food stands, around Northland. Some have been set up by individuals, others by community groups. In the Far North they can be found in Kawakawa, Kaitaia, Kerikeri and Rawene, and more, with another about to open at Waimate North.