Te Atatū Baptist Church’s new pātaka kai (free open street pantry) is a hit with the local community. The sign on the pantry says it all: ‘Take what you need. Leave what you can’. And plenty of both are happening. Locals stock the shelves with tinned and packaged goods, or fresh vegetables from their own gardens; those needing food help themselves.

“The Bible tells us we should feed the hungry. This is a really simple way of doing that,” says the church’s new pastor, Debbie Spackman. “It governs itself; the food just comes in and goes out. We haven’t had any issues of produce sitting out and going bad. You can go down there four times in a day and it will have completely different items in it each time. 

“I think sometimes it can be hard for people to go to food banks and ask for a parcel when they might just need a loaf of bread to get them to the end of the day when they get paid or something like that. Even if one family gets helped by some food in a week, then it’s worth it.”

The pātaka kai is one of several plans that were on hiatus while the church journeyed alongside Debbie and her family as her husband, Roger, faced terminal illness. Sadly, he died in August 2018.

“We’re not a very big church,” says Debbie. “With Roger being unwell, everybody had to, as we termed it, ‘pick up suitcases’ to help each other through the airport, as it were. By the end of last year particularly, we were all weary.” 

Now, while they still mourn Roger’s passing, they are picking up their plans once again. These range from the large-scale—developing the church property to include space for social housing—to more of the simple, like installing a u-shaped seat at the front of their site as a place for passers-by to sit and talk.