Ponsonby launches Auckland's first Little Free Food Pantry

ponsonby 21/07/2017

Mention Ponsonby Rd, and the first thing that comes to mind probably isn't homelessness and poverty.

But the iconic Auckland street, which straddles Newton, Freemans Bay and the swanky suburb it shares its name with, is home to a food bank with a difference.

The Unitarian Church has opened New Zealand's first Little Free Food Pantry. It's a cross between an honesty box and a traditional food bank - anyone who needs food can take some, no questions asked. Others are encouraged to leave some behind.

"It's totally democratic - you don't need to make an appointment," says church member Kay Parish. "You just turn up and give what you can, take what you can."

Note left in box from someone grateful. Images provided by Ms Parish

Ms Parish got the idea after reading about the Little Free Food Pantry movement which has swept the US in recent months. The church set up its pantry a few weeks ago, and Ms Parish been making sure it stays full.

"Everyone in the community contributes - it's not just us. We're just providing the vehicle for it to happen."

She hopes in time, the pantry will become self-sustaining without the church having to fill it every day - and it does need filling, every day.

"It's really a bottomless pit. We could just pour money into it and the food would go, but we're just doing what we can and hoping other people will join in."

Homelessness and poverty is rife in Auckland. Auckland Council earlier this week estimated around 23,000 Aucklanders don't have a permanent place to stay at night, up from 20,000 in 2013, and Ms Parish says there's no end in sight.

"[The Government's] policies are causing huge inequalities in our society, and that's not good for anyone. They need to start implementing policies with more compassion and with a view to justice."


Unitarian Church. Image provided by Ms Parish

What is the Unitarian Church?

It began as an offshoot of Christianity, but modern Unitarian Church members "don't really believe in a deity as such", says Ms Parish.

The church on Ponsonby Rd is open to anyone - Christians, agnostics, athiests, Muslims, pagans, whatever - as long as "they are respectful of other people's values".

"We believe in the dignity and worth of every human being and that we should be striving for making the world a better place for everybody," says Ms Parish.

"This is a very small way we can reach out and do that."

The Little Free Food Pantry can be found at the Unitarian Church at 1A Ponsonby Rd, Auckland.