TODAY |

Ōtara soup kitchen never more important as Covid-19 upheaval hits community hard

Ōtara's LIFE Soup Kitchen was set up five years ago now - and in the age of Covid-19 and wage subsidies, it's never been more important.

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LIFE Soup Kitchen was set up to help struggling families get by – and it’s never been more important. Source: Tagata Pasifika

The service provides nutritious meals all year round for those struggling to get by, with a total of 800 meals served per week.

They've been so successful that they've now expanded beyond Ōtara, into other Auckland suburbs including Mangere, Glen Innes, Henderson and Papakura, with plans to open kitchens soon in Mt Roskill and Manurewa.

Volunteer Pati Isaia says anyone from Ōtara would understand the need for what he does.

"Being brought up in Ōtara, we've been through hard times as well, just seeing our families out there struggling," he said.

His values of giving back were instilled in him from a young age by his parents - something he says he finds extremely rewarding.

"My passion was just to help the families get through and also just share a meal and find out more about them."

His wife Sue Isaia says she finds it satisfying to take away the worries of a family, even just for a night.

"People are finding it hard - they don't have enough money for food and groceries, so for them to come into LIFE Soup Kitchen, they're able to have a nutritious meal and just enjoy their time together with their kids."

Ms Isaia is right about people Ōtara finding it hard, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic spread, forcing the subsequent lockdown.

The suburb had the highest number of wage subsidy applications due to Covid-19 impacting jobs there, and also has had the highest number of requests for council food parcels.

Ōtara resident Leafa Luatua-Tuala has been coming to a LIFE kitchen for more than a year, and says "the food's been amazing" and that her kids get a chance to get to know people in their community.

Fellow resident Henry Paoo said having a solid meal on a Monday is a "good sort of start to the week".