Sustainable Communities Through Kai

Rongomatāne - Qualities of peacefulness and order, provision, cultivation.

Kai is central to any sustainable community.  Growing, cooking and sharing kai can bring communities closer together and closer to te taiao – the environment.

Over five years, two groups of Enviroschools from Waikato and Tāmaki Makaurau – Auckland, delved deeply into the many aspects of kai and the role it could play in creating a sustainable community. A key question emerged – what would it look like if our whole school community was enabled to grow kai?

Students learn from a community member at Tauwhare School – Waikato.

Students investigated local food security and resilience, and where food could be found in their communities.  Other explorations were around kai being a precious taonga, enterprise in kai, cultural kai, food equity and access.

Students were excited to develop their own ideas and a wide range of projects emerged:

  • Community kai sharing/koha tables
  • Garden starter kits for the community
  • Hangi pit and tikanga for its use
  • Gifting planter boxes and kai buckets for community
  • Seed banks
  • Tool bank
  • Soup garden
  • Bee-keeping
  • Community garden as a living classroom

Hukanui School Garden

“By connecting communities through kai our living landscapes can meet our physical and social needs and enhance our resilience, self-reliance and health”


Alongside the students experiences, key teachers from each school came together in cluster groups for professional development and learning days.  Schools hosted workshops and inspiration was drawn from holding hui in these local places that modelled sustainable practices.

One of the successes of the project was the collaborative regional approach that brought together a range of people and organisations to contributed their local and practical knowledge. This facilitated cluster approach strengthened connections with the land and local people in the community.

The concepts of the Enviroschools Sustainable Communities through Kai learning and action project


Toimata Foundation drew all the learning and experiences from the school clusters into a celebration booklet ‘Enviroschools Sustainable Communities through Kai’ that was launched at Tauwhare School in Waikato in March 2019. Visitors shared food and saw the results of many years of student-led action (fruit trees, trading post, nifty fruit picker) and heard plans for the future. 



Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou to all those involved.  May the learning and actions continue to nourish your school and communities for many years to come.


Banner photo – Shared produce table at Hukanui School in Waikato.