Nourishing Communities

Nourishing Communities

Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi. With your basket and my basket the people will live.

Communities are built and strengthened through the sharing of kai. Whether it’s something made at home, or something snatched from the shelves of the supermarket in a hurry, the gift of food is always appreciated. There’s no better time to share food than in a period of transition and need. At Playcentre, providing home cooked meals to families with newborns reduces the stress so that everyone can focus on making the new addition feel welcome.

In an effort to reduce the evening meal chaos for families when a new baby arrives, the community at Landsdowne Terrace Playcentre help out by preparing wholesome meals. The centre’s Meals Coordinator, and a recent recipient of the service herself, Merrill Greenow, told me about it.

Prior to a new baby’s arrival Merrill contacts the family and helps construct a meal plan that works for them. “I send an email asking when they would like to receive the meals and if they have any special dietary requirements”, she says. The goal is to provide the family with ten meals and it’s up to the family when and how frequently they receive the meals. Merrill then leaves a signup sheet in the Playcentre kitchen for families to put their names down on a day that suits. “The form’s always full by the time the babies arrive”.

As a member of Landsdowne Terrace Playcentre myself, I always gladly sign up. But when the time to actually prepare the food comes around I feel oh-so-self-conscious about my average cooking skills and vegetarianism. Will they like this curry? How will they cope without any meat? Is this chili too spicy for a breastfeeding mum or fussy toddler? Fortunately, with the help of a few fail-safe recipes and some generous feedback, I generally manage to get something made. I find it helps to make a big batch of something so that you can feed your own family as well as prepare a meal for others.

Merrill and I agree that the ‘pay it forward’ aspect of providing the meals is a true reflection of the Playcentre spirit. When Merrill’s daughter was born she was relatively new to Playcentre; Merrill had been attending for about three terms with her son. She was quickly overwhelmed by the generosity of the donations. “The meals were really nice and included baking, loaves of bread, cakes and homemade chocolates (that I hid from the rest of family!). And then even down to people buying the quick cook rice or pasta so EVERYTHING you needed for that meal was in the bag. That people had gone to such an effort, even though I didn’t know them very well at the time, was amazing. I put my hand up to be the meals coordinator because I was so grateful for the meals we received and it was another way of giving back and showing my appreciation.”

They say it takes a village to raise a child. As you grow with Playcentre it truly becomes your village, especially when you live a long way from family like Merrill, who is originally from England. Without family around to support with the arrival of a newborn, it’s especially important to have some meals prepared for you and to feel cared for by your community.

For all of us the Playcentre community quickly extends beyond the sessions and becomes an ongoing and supportive network for those involved. One way of ensuring this happens is by sharing kai; it comes highly recommended from those at Landsdowne Terrace. If you’d like some great recipes to share feel free to get in touch.

Pictured is an easy to make and seasonal butternut and cannellini gratin from Anna Jones’s ‘A Modern Way to Cook’.

Posted: Monday 8 May 2017