People go hungry in a city claiming to be the food capital

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Vishnu Dulal checks crops at the Awapuni Community Garden. (File Photo)

David Unwin/Stuff

Vishnu Dulal checks crops at the Awapuni Community Garden. (File Photo)

Palmerston North leaders are being challenged to tackle the irony that 10,000 residents suffer food insecurity in a city promoting itself as a food hub.

Manawatū Food Action Network representative Dave Mollard has made a request to city council to develop a city-wide food resilience policy, supported by umbrella group Environment Network Manawatū.

Mollard has prepared a kai resilience strategy based on work already in play in the southwest of the city, where he has been a leading force in the development of the Awapuni community gardens.

He said there were many community groups helping to feed people whose cupboards ran bare.

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But he said it would be much better to teach people how to grow their own locally, rather than have to rely on emergency services.

Mollard said the disruption of the pandemic had highlighted issues with food insecurity and supply chain problems, but the issues had been there before.

He said it was ironic that people were unsure where their next meals would come from when the city was surrounded by enough land to feed millions of people.

Cr Brent Barrett, chairman of the council’s environmental sustainability committee, said growing food for local consumption had benefits for the environment and tackling climate change as well.

“As a city we take pride in growing the best food in the world, then putting it on planes, trains and trucks and sending it away.”

Mollard said while food insecurity was often a symptom of underlying problems, teaching people how to work together, share, and feed themselves was a step on the way to solving deeper issues.

Sharing food was a great way to break down social barriers between neighbours, and community gardens created a sense of place, attracted activity into empty spaces, and improved social connections.

“A community that is well fed makes better decisions,” he said.

Auckland already had a food security strategy, Christchurch had had one for many years, and Wellington was working on one.

Mollard said it was not about spending a lot of money, but about the council taking leadership to encourage the co-ordination and development of programmes that worked.

Councillors have asked staff to explore what it would take to develop a Palmerston North policy.

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