The first thing Stefni Wilson notices at the Papatoetoe Food Hub is a banana tree growing in the corner of the social enterprise.
“That tree was a little baby when I first arrived at the Food Hub over a year ago and now it is producing fruit,” Stefni says. “For me personally it shows the growth that I have experienced in my time here.”
Stefni has spent the past 12 months working at the Papatoetoe Food Hub after years of working in the corporate sector. Her work at the Food Hub has included helping to kickstart educational programmes like Whenua to Whenua , aimed at building a more resilient local food system.
Now she is set to take the kaupapa of the Food Hub to a new role with a community organisation based in the Hawke’s Bay.
“Working at the Papatoetoe Food Hub empowered me to learn skills which I wouldn’t have thought of doing prior to coming here,” she says. “Whether that is assisting with educational programmes around composting or budgeting, or even helping make authentic hangi, I have gained more knowledge in several months here than I have in previous jobs.”
“The mahi and the people involved have been the true highlight for me during my time here. I came here to simply learn about composting and instead have spent the past year learning about a new career that makes real change for communities.”
Papatoetoe Food Hub director Raju Ramakrishna says Stefni was a natural fit with the team when she turned up to learn about composting from Pacific Vision Aotearoa.
“It’s a shame to lose Stefni because she really embraced the desire to teach people about food and how it can be good for one’s pocket, puku and planet,” says Raju.
“But the flip side is she is taking her knowledge with us to another part of the country so it is awesome to see our kaupapa moving to other parts of Aotearoa.”
The Papatoetoe Food Hub is currently undergoing a reset following the impact of COVID-19. It resulted in the social enterprise pausing its cafe operations but Raju says the educational/social workspace, plus catering services, will be a stronger focal point.
“One of the aims of the Food Hub is to engage with locals and help them understand the importance of food resiliency. We want South Aucklanders to be a part of the Food Hub and really take the reins in leading our kaupapa, especially in our educational programmes like Whenua to Whenua.”
“So this is an opportunity for the Papatoetoe Food Hub to reflect, reset and relaunch in the winter.”
The Food Hub was originally an initiative conceived by Healthy Families South Auckland and The Southern Initiative in 2017.