An innovative new way to get food where it’s needed most is coming to Tokoroa, with Buttabean Motivation (BBM) and Foodstuffs North Island partnering to open a ‘social supermarket’ this August.
The social supermarket will be focused on providing food support with dignity, by allowing people who are experiencing food insecurity to choose what they need for themselves in a supermarket-style environment – rather than providing people with a pre-filled food parcel that might not meet their specific needs.
“It’s about giving people what they need to provide for themselves and their families through tough times, without taking away any of their dignity,” says David Letele of Buttabean Motivation. “No one should feel ashamed to be getting food support.”
“The idea is that this will be a place that provides more than just emergency food access – it’s a place where people can connect with a wide range of support services to help make sure that one day, they don’t need the social supermarket anymore.”
“We decided to bring this initiative to Tokoroa because we have an existing BBM group down here, and through that have learned a lot about what the community needs,” says Letele.
This will be Foodstuffs’ third social supermarket partnership, following the success of the year-old Wellington City Mission Social Supermarket and the recently opened Te Hiku Pātaka in Kaitaia – which is a partnership with Te Kahu Oranga Whanau. The partnership is part of Foodstuffs’ pledge to be Here for NZ, helping to ensure all New Zealanders have access to healthy affordable food and supporting local communities to thrive.
For BBM, providing food support became a key focus throughout New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdowns.
“BBM Foodshare started the day before the first ever level four lockdown, when we helped a mum of four who had no food and no money,” says Letele. “The first person I called for support was Chris Quin at Foodstuffs North Island, and since then we’ve gotten hundreds of thousands of healthy food parcels to people.”
Foodstuffs North Island Head of Membership Experience Willa Hand says that partnering with BBM on this initiative was a “no brainer”.
“We’ve had a close relationship with BBM for some time now, and have supported their Foodshare operations in South Auckland since the beginning of the pandemic. When they told us about their plans to open another Foodshare in Tokoroa, it made total sense that we would throw our support behind it and help them set it up as a social supermarket.”
Since the opening of the Wellington City Mission Social Supermarket in March 2021, Hand says the Foodstuffs team have learned a lot about what makes these initiatives work.
“What really makes a difference is having strong local leadership who connect deeply with people in their community. That’s why each of our social supermarket initiatives so far has taken a slightly different approach – rather than setting up a cookie-cutter offering in every town, we work closely with the community partners to set up something that is uniquely suited to their needs.”
The backing from Foodstuffs has helped take their plans for the Tokoroa community to the next level, says Letele.
“Having Foodstuffs on board means we get their retail expertise and support on all the logistics of setting up a supermarket, training a team to run it, and getting processes sorted to make sure there’s always stock on shelf when people need it. And we get to pair that with our passion for the community to create something that will meaningfully impact the lives of people doing it tough in Tokoroa.”
Foodstuffs North Island, the 100% New Zealand owned and operated co-operative with members running PAK’nSAVE, New World and Four Square stores, plans to roll out its social supermarket initiatives to more communities in the year ahead. Discussions are already underway with community partners in a number of other regions to find solutions that are right for them and their local communities.