Social supermarket welcomes its first visitors

Social supermarket welcomes its first visitors

A passion to help people has come full circle for two former police colleagues instrumental in the opening of Whakatāne’s first social supermarket.

Born out of a unique partnership between Waiariki Whanau Mentoring Trust and Foodstuffs North Island, Whare Āio Social Supermarket officially opened its doors to the community for the first time today.  The joint initiative aims to help improve food security for up to 13,000 people across Whakatāne and the surrounding area in its first year.

As part of the partnership, Foodstuffs North Island, the 102-year-old New Zealand owned co-operative, teamed up the Waiariki Whanau Mentoring Trust with a local buddy store, New World Whakatāne, who will work alongside the social supermarket to help keep the shelves full and provide ongoing training and expert advice and guidance. 

Waiariki Whanau Mentoring Trust, Board Chair Waata Heathcote and New World Whakatāne owner operator Bruce Jenkins, have a mutual respect that has been years in the making. 

Bruce says: “I’ve got a decent understanding of the local community and its challenges from my nine years as Officer in Charge of the Whakatāne Police, followed by owning two local Four Squares, and now as the owner-operator of New World Whakatāne. From his early days in the police, I saw Waata was driven to help people. I greatly respect the work he and his team do, and it’s a privilege to work with him again on such a significant initiative for a community we love and are passionate about supporting.”

“Everything we’re doing at Whare Āio is to help members of our community that are doing it really tough.  We’re all proud to be working on something that will have such a positive impact for so many people.”

As Waiariki Whanau Mentoring Trust Board Chair, Waata says the need to address food insecurity within the community has been a pressing concern for everyone involved with the Trust. 

“During Covid we had six food banks in operation, when they closed, we knew we had to find an innovative solution that would help those living on the fringes of our community and forgotten groups like the working poor.”

“I’ve known Bruce since the early 2000’s, when I started as a police recruit, and he was Officer in Charge of the Whakatāne Police. We’ve both moved on to new careers, and now come full circle to work together again on a project we are both passionate about.”

“The opening of Whare Āio will provide a vital service to thousands of people every year, and Bruce and his team have been with us every step of the way, helping with the hard mahi, as well as being generous with their expertise and advice.”

Whare Āio is Foodstuffs North Islands 12th social supermarket, each one brought to life and managed in partnership with a local community provider. Chris Quin, Chief Executive of Foodstuffs North Island, says the model to deliver each social supermarket is simple but entirely unique to the community it serves.

“What we’ve learnt is that there isn’t a one size fits all approach. Every community has a unique set of needs, and each social supermarket is a community-led, customer driven response to those needs. That’s what makes each one so special,” he says.

 “We’re all bringing a different set of skills to the table.  We’re local grocers with an expertise in retail and our community partners like the Waiariki Whanau Mentoring Trust have a deep-rooted understanding of the issues impacting their local community and how best to serve it.  What we all share is a single-minded commitment to ensuring healthy and affordable food is available to everyone.”

“It’s an absolute honour for Foodstuffs North Island to be part of the Whare Āio whānau. I know first-hand the passion and hard work that has gone on behind the scenes to bring this vision to life.”

In addition to food support, Waiariki Whanau Mentoring Trust also provides employment training, education, prison in-reach, reintegration, peer support, nursing, mental health, addiction, alcohol and drugs teams. It has 60 staff/kaimahi and over 200 volunteers.

Whare Āio Social Supermarket is located at 220-224 The Strand.  To access the social supermarket head online to

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