One in five Kiwis struggles to put good food on the table each week. That's a million of us.
While some Kiwis are enjoying homegrown veges, many are going without vegetables altogether.
This week is National Gardening Week (October 18-25) and everyone is being encouraged to grow an extra row to share with neighbours, community pantries, food banks, and other local food donation agencies.
Candice Luke, lead kaitiaki at Pātaka Kai, a national community pantry movement that encourages the co-sharing of food to strengthen communities, welcomes the initiative.
"We have a real need for fresh fruit and veges to complement the packaged goods," says Candice.
"The majority of regular donations made to Pātaka Kai around the country are of dry or long-life goods. While we are incredibly grateful for this food, it would be good to see more fresh produce being donated to provide balanced nutrition for our families in need."
There are 158 Pātaka Kai locations around the country and people can donate or take whatever they want. Vulnerable community members who are ineligible for assistance through other avenues are able to quickly access food through their local Pātaka Kai.
Candice would like to see seasonal fruit and vegetables that so often go to waste being collected and donated.
"It would be wonderful for more fruit and veges to make it into the pantries instead of going to waste. Often we see fruit-laden trees or gardens bursting with veges that are not being harvested because the landowner may not be aware of the options available for excesses, or in some cases, they may belong to someone who is physically unable to do it.
"If able-bodied people could connect with elders who have established gardens and fruit trees, we could create a smooth system for the food to make it into pantries instead of rotting on the ground," says Candice.
The United Nations has proclaimed 2021 as the International Year of Growing Fruit and Vegetables to raise awareness on the important role of fruit and vegetables in human nutrition, food security, and health.
It will promote diversified, balanced, and healthy diets and lifestyles through fruit and vegetable consumption, reduce loss and waste in fruit and vegetable food systems, and share best practices.
According to Stats NZ, fruit and vegetable prices have generally increased over winter as lots of summer produce is out of season and becomes more expensive. This year the higher prices were mainly due to tomatoes and broccoli seeing a major hike, with broccoli being at an all-time high, averaging $4.13 in July.
Fiona Arthur from Yates said growing your own veges is not only good for physical and mental health but it can seriously help save money.
"For some families paying over $4 for a small head of broccoli is just not going to fit into their weekly budget," says Fiona. "If more people grow their own veges, it will positively impact the weekly shopping bill and bring a whole lot of other benefits.
"Taking the extra step and popping a few extra seeds in the dirt does not require much effort but could mean so much for another family in need. We would love to see everyone getting their extra row under way and let's fill those community pantries."
Once you've grown your veges to share, visit Yates website to find a list of the organisations in your area that would welcome your donation of fresh homegrown veges.
National Gardening Week aims to foster a love of gardening with a focus on growing not only plants but friendships, good health, strong communities, and closer connections with nature. Whether it's a few pots on the balcony, a small patch, or an extensive garden, everyone can experience the joy of gardening.