The Happy Puku has delivered more than 3400 meals to those in need since the lockdown started.
From families in transitional housing to vulnerable individuals unsure where their next meal will come from, the nutritious kai has been a lifeline; not only keeping tummies full, but providing a much-needed gesture of connection.
Established two years ago, The Happy Puku aims to teach people who have experienced homelessness how to ‘grow a kai, catch a kai and cook a kai’, providing opportunities to learn skills and enter employment through professional catering events. They also distribute meals to those in need.
The non-profit catering company is the social enterprise of Te Tuinga Whanau Support, a Trust that provides a wide range services in our local community including social services and transitional housing, advice and advocacy, and mentoring and development.
All funds from Happy Puku’s catering gigs and cooking classes go back to Te Tuinga Whanau, supporting the 176 families they look after.
Te Tuinga Whanau Executive Director Tommy Kapai says their heart-led team did a fantastic job of stepping up to the challenges of lockdown.
“We almost doubled our housing capacity to accommodate people affected by Covid-19, and we opened a second temporary youth home to help Youth Justice reshuffle young people on-remand.
“Our management bubble also kept the team informed and morale up, guiding the Te Tuinga Whanau waka through unchartered waters. Our staff worked so hard every day to make sure our most vulnerable were housed, warm, fed and comforted throughout lockdown, paddling forward with strong strokes in unity and with aroha.”
The Happy Puku team putting some meals together.
The team are back to business as usual for now, dealing with all the winter worries this time of year brings.
Tommy says they have been preparing to address the looming tidal wave of people they are expecting to knock on their door due to the economic effects of COVID-19.
“With the wage subsidy ending, we expect to see many become unemployed, and we will soon see the true impact.
“The ability to keep paying mortgages or rent will become difficult, as well as the quality and amount of food that the newly unemployed can provide themselves and their children. This will continue for some time - even after a vaccine is available.”
During the lockdown, all Happy Puku’s weekly classes and catering events were cancelled, and income was cut.
Te Tuinga Whanau sought funding through the Rapid Response Fund, and more recently, the WBOP COVID-19 Recovery Fund, established by local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council, to help them continue cooking kai for whanau in need.
Tommy says they are grateful for the initial $10,000 received through the Rapid Response Fund, and the $27,000 received through the Recovery Fund, which has allowed them to keep Happy Puku team working, including two casual staff members who transitioned through their service.
“These two workers have become an integral part of the Happy Puku team, embracing the opportunity to give back to their community – they have shown a huge amount of personal growth over the last few months.
“We are so appreciative of the funding we have received – it is allowing us to not only keep people fed, but provide a powerful way to connect with whanau.”
To learn more about Te Tuinga Whanau and The Happy Puku, visit www.ttw.org.nz.
To learn more about the COVID-19 Recovery Fund and to apply today, visit www.tect.org.nz/recovery-fund.