Building city’s food resilience

Community Fruit Harvest Ōtepoti volunteers Mana O’Connell (left) and Maia Chambers work on one of...
Community Fruit Harvest Ōtepoti volunteers Mana O’Connell (left) and Maia Chambers work on one of several laden apple trees at a North Dunedin property earlier this year. The project is jointly oversee by Our Food Network Dunedin and the Valley Project. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
There is no single "silver bullet" that will make Ōtepoti Dunedin a food resilient city, but working together to solve the issues is the best way forward.

That is the message from Our Food Network Dunedin project manager Tom Young, who is working to forge connections among the "many passionate people" in the city working to improve food security for residents.

Appointed to the role in January, Mr Young has taken a close look at the efforts of local organisations and community groups to secure and increase local food sources, and to ensure the food reaches those who need it most.

A great success story this year has been the "fantastic" work of the Community Fruit Harvest Ōtepotigroup, jointly overseen by Our Food Network (OFN) and The Valley Project, which sent teams of volunteers into local back yards to pick excess fruit and redistribute it.

"Their goal this year was to rescue 1.5 tonnes of fruit and they have actually picked 4.5 tonnes, which is a brilliant result," Mr Young said.

Instead of going to waste, the fruit was redistributed through various organisations to local families.

"To achieve this, the Community Fruit Harvest group activated more than 100 volunteers this year, which was pretty impressive.

"That project has enormous potential — if funding could be secured — to be the guardians of a city-wide fruit orchard," Mr Young said.

Projects such as the Community Fruit Harvest, community gardens, place-based organisations were good examples of the food resilience work going on across the city.

However, the overall picture could be enhanced if groups were able to work more closely together towards the common goal of local food strength.

Tom Young
Tom Young
"So, in the first months of this year, I have been looking at the networks that exist between groups in Dunedin and working on ways to enhance those informal relationships," he said.

As a first step, Our Food Network has created a Food Resilience Co-operation Pledge, which a growing number of organisations were signing up to.

Through the pledge, groups make a commitment to "fostering food resilience in Ōtepotithrough collaborative co-operation".

The ultimate aim of the collaboration would be to build resilient communities, "and cultivate a future where no-one in the city goes hungry and all have access to locally produced, sustainable, nourishing, and culturally appropriate foods", Mr Young said.

Organisations already signed up to the Food Resilience Co-operation Pledge included local charities, environmental and climate groups, place-based community organisations, community gardens, the University of Otago Sustainability Office, Otago Farmers Market, and Araiteuru Marae.

Mr Young said the pledge was a strong foundation as OFN moved into active planning on a series of events to be held in the second half of this year.

The first will be a networking hui bringing representatives of the city’s community gardens, enviroschools and similar groups together.

"The aim is to find ways for groups to come together to share knowledge, tools, and resources, and generally to become more connected," he said.

OFN is also planning a series of in-person workshops around the Edible Gardens resource, which provides a 12-step guide to growing your own food in Dunedin.

"These kinds of resources are important for those on the front lines of the food resilience crisis," he said.

In November, OFN is planning to host a city-wide food hui with the aim of bringing together a broad range of groups to work on food resilience objectives.

The main topics will include expansion of local markets, community gardens and education, bringing organisations at the front line of the food crisis, and individual residents.

For more information about the work of Our Food Network, visit the website