'Kai is a great connector' - Lockdown sees Bay of Plenty trust ramp up efforts to get food to whanau

A Bay of Plenty trust is encouraging Kiwis, including restaurants which may have closed, to put their love and energy into the communities around them with food.

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Tommy Kapai of Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust talks about how kai can also bring hope. Source: Breakfast

The Government yesterday gave $27 million to services helping vulnerable communities, and Tommy Wilson - also know as Tommy Kapai - says that money will help organisations like his to feed those who need it most.

Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust helps families get into accommodation, learn life skills like cooking, fishing, hunting and budgeting, and produces meals for those who need them.

They currently take care of about 170 families, and over the past few weeks they've been ramping up their operations due to a likely rise in demand amid the coronavirus lockdown and economic downturn.

A Happy Puku meal, Tommy says, "is never just a meal - it's a plate of hope - and it's a message that someone cares."

"We've been able to do between 100-400 Puku bowls for a year and a half now, so we're just extending that out."

He's now encouraging any other businesses or people who have the capacity to whāngai (adopt) a family who needs help to do so.

"I hope that through a korero like this we will inspire others - we are really trying to set up a template that others can follow," he said.

"This is war and we can fight it together.

"There is a silver lining in this long dark cloud - but we don't have to fly solo.

"I think we're all capable of whāngai-ing a family and just having their cellphone so they can stay connected to us - if people can stay connected they don't get so hoha (restless/bored) and they know someone cares.

"I'm sure there are other restaurants out there that are closed that could do something similar and create a Happy Puku for those in their area - because kai is a great connector."