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Cooking Up Community Spirit In Tūrangi

Cooking Up Community Spirit In Tūrangi

Small towns are often tight-knit ones thanks to events like Tūrangi’s community dinners which help bring people together and seal those neighbourhood bonds.

Twice a month (between February and November) volunteers arrive at the town’s Senior Citizens Hall on a Tuesday afternoon and cook a free dinner for up to 70 people. There are no questions asked of those who attend that evening – just a hearty meal served along with a sweet treat for dessert.

“We have about 10 semi-regular volunteers,” explains organiser Steve Hollis. “We enjoy the preparation and the cooking, then we serve and tidy up. People like the fact they’re doing something to support our community and help those who are in need.”


More Than A Meal

Community dinners have been a regular feature in Tūrangi since mid-2013 when the idea was first floated by members of the River of Life Church. The original idea was to help alleviate demand on the local community foodbank. But the benefits have proved to be far more valuable and wide-reaching.

“Our ages range from really young to really old,” Steve says. “And so it’s a chance to get those people together. Those who attend regularly have built relationships and often sit with the same people. And those friendships often continue outside of our dinners too. New people are always welcomed in so it’s very social. Often when the meal is finished, people stay around chatting for a while afterwards.

“People like to help each other too. If they have extra vegetables from their garden, they bring them in and people who need them can take them away.”

When COVID hit, the meals continued and were served as a ‘takeaway’ option for people to enjoy in their homes. Over the past two years, the numbers have increased and community dinners are proving more popular than ever.


Funding Support

Tūrangi Mountain Region Trust (which is associated with the River of Life Church) runs the initiative. They budget $10,000 a year for food and disposable plates so there’s no washing up to be done afterwards. The venue is provided free of charge by the local council, and for the past five years BayTrust has provided around one third of the funding required.

However, with the rising cost of inflation BayTrust has upped this year’s support to $4650. “It’s the biggest amount they’ve ever given us which is excellent. It’s organisations like BayTrust that make things like this possible so it’s really appreciated. They allow us to keep going which is so important. Over the last few years it’s costing us more to purchase food and we have to make sure we have enough to feed everyone.”

Steve says attendees are always encouraged to bring an ice-cream container with them so they can take home any leftovers and nothing goes to waste. “So Tuesday’s meal might also become Wednesday’s meal. For some people, it’s the most substantial thing they’ll eat all week.”

Menus vary each week but include family favourites like bolognese, pasta bake, shepherd’s pie, sausages and burger patties, pumpkin soup, quiche and plenty of mixed vegetables. Ice-cream is always on offer, usually with a dessert slice and sometimes even apple crumble.

“We always advertise on the Tūrangi Noticeboard page on Facebook, but anyone passing through town is most welcome to just come and grab a meal.”