Supermarket with a difference opens in Tokoroa

Supermarket with a difference opens in Tokoroa

A new ‘social supermarket’ has opened in Tokoroa to provide food support with dignity to people in need.

The social supermarket is a partnership between Buttabean Motivation (BBM) and Foodstuffs North Island – the third of its kind that Foodstuffs has helped set up in New Zealand.

The social supermarket allows 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 means we can provide people what they need for themselves and their families without taking away any of their dignity,” says David Letele of BBM. “Times are tough, and no one should feel ashamed to be getting food support.”

“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. “We have a member in Tokoroa who weighs over 300kg. Every time I visit him, I think if we had a service down here that could provide him the support like we have in South Auckland, he would have more of a chance of living.

“That’s the kind of difference we believe this initiative can make.”

BBM have been providing food support through their Foodshare programme since the first of New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdowns, providing hundreds of thousands of healthy food parcels to people since then.

“BBM Foodshare started in the first ever level four lockdown. We heard about a mum of four who had no food or money and we knew there had to be some sort of help we could provide,” says Letele. “The first person I called for support was Chris Quin at Foodstuffs North Island, and that support has continued to this day.”

Foodstuffs North Island CEO Chris Quin says that BBM is one of many organisations that the NZ owned and operated co-operative partners with to support communities, and working together on the Tokoroa social supermarket was an easy decision.

“We’ve had a close relationship with BBM for a while now, and have always supported their Foodshare operations in South Auckland,” says Quin. “Dave mentioned to me earlier this year that they were planning to open another Foodshare in Tokoroa, so I said ‘why not make it a social supermarket?’ And it’s fantastic to see that set up now as a place that will support the community for years to come.”

This is Foodstuffs’ third social supermarket partnership, following the success of the Wellington City Mission Social Supermarket and Te Hiku Pātaka in Kaitaia – which is a partnership with Te Kahu Oranga Whanau.

Quin says that each social supermarket is different, and uniquely tailored to the needs of the local community.

“That’s what makes this model work – our Foodstuffs’ team brings retail expertise, we support on all the logistics of setting up a supermarket, training a team to operate it, and sorting replenishment processes… but it’s the local community organisation who decides exactly how things will run and what the offering will be for customers.

“Having strong local leadership who connect deeply with people in their community is what really makes a difference. Foodstuffs North Island is a 100% NZ owned co-operative, with individual grocers operating stores in their local community, so we believe deeply in the power of local leadership and empowering people to make decisions that are right for their community.”

The social supermarket shares a site with BBM’s newly opened gym in Tokoroa, at 49 Ashworth Street. Letele says the vision is that this will be a place that provides more than just emergency food access, helping people with a ‘hand up’ rather than a ‘hand out’.

“The idea is that this will be 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.”

Foodstuffs North Island plans to roll out its social supermarket initiatives to more communities in the year ahead, and work is underway with community partners in a number of other regions already – including Whangarei, Tauranga, and Gisborne.

The social supermarket programme 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.

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