An interview with Toha Kai Co-Founder, Michael Reynolds
'Toha Kai' to share food. Based in Ōtautahi, you will find them packing boxes with excess quality produce for delivery, hosting cooking workshops and building relationships throughout Waitaha. All with the aim of establishing systems to support our community to thrive.
Toha Kai’s focus is to enable equitable access to healthy, locally grown and climate appropriate kai while aiming to develop personal skills, build empowerment and strengthen rangatiratanga, kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga.
Toha Kai will do this by:
- Working with local food producers to purchase and redistribute high quality food and food waste in order to increase its access and affordability.
- Collaborating with local organisations to host workshops focused on cooking skills, growing produce and nutrition education; and we aim to interact with social services in the Woolston community so as to engage with whānau and individuals in need of support.
We were lucky enough to chat with Co-Founder, Michael Reynolds to talk about all things Toha Kai, community and more.
Hi Michael, thanks for chatting with me today. Firstly, can you please tell me a bit about Toha Kai?
What inspired you to help with accessibility to fresh produce?
My interest in food sovereignty developed after the earthquakes. It became pretty apparent to many how inequitable the current food system is. I now run a couple of projects that are focused on how we can build strong and sovereign community-based food systems, and our income levels shouldn't limit our access to local, fresh and nutrient-dense food.
Let’s talk about your beautiful produce boxes. How do you select your products?
We very much run with what's in season. There are several reasons for this. The first being that the more seasonal it is, the fresher it is and it delivers more nutritional benefit to the customer. There are clear climate benefits too. The more local the food, the lower food miles and refrigeration hours. The carbon costs of food travelling and being in refrigeration are substantial. We are working on a model where the food is produced as locally as possible and spends the least amount of time with us as possible.
The other major reason is that it invites us all to be more in sync with the seasons and what our whenua can provide for us at any given time of the year. This is important, as we believe that building that connection with our beautiful planet is going to be a major factor in negotiating the challenges that are laid out in front of us.
What makes your produce boxes so special to you?
We put a lot of love into them!!! Love for our friends who are ordering our boxes, love for you local producers and love for our planet. The only plastic that goes into the boxes is generally just the tape that comes on the bananas or a reusable bag for keeping salad fresh. We are mindful of keeping the potential of waste down to a bare minimum.
We use organic produce wherever we can and we are still able to keep the boxes at affordable prices. Everything is so fresh too...if you can't eat all your beetroot or pumpkin that week, you know that it will be just as good after a few days or a week in the fridge.
Your cooking classes looked amazing! Can you tell me more about this?
They were....however, we did have to stop running them due to the lack of a decent venue close to our community. We do plan to offer them again as soon as we can find that venue....very passionate about not only making the kai available but supporting people to learn how to experience our products in new, exciting and nutritious ways.
We here at Innocent Packaging feel lucky to have customers like yourself using our products! What made you decide to use our compostable packaging?
We care. It's that easy really. We need to love and care for our whenua to live a healthy and joyful life. That means reducing our plastic use, especially single-use plastics. Also, composting is a super beautiful practice to adopt into your life. Being able to reintroduce organic matter back into your garden in a way that supports life and helps create nutrient-dense food...its the best thing ever!
So..if we can use options that can be broken down and used to regenerate our soil through composting, then everybody wins!
Being based in Ōtautahi Christchurch, what are some of your favourite things about your local community?
Christchurch, although it still struggles to shake off its conservative roots, has become a hotbed for experimenting with social activations that have both social and ecological wellbeing at their core. Also, our climate down here is pretty favourable for growing a wide variety of tasty crops all through the year.
Do you have any favourite meals you like to create using your produce boxes that you would recommend?
I like to keep things pretty simple. I find it hard to go past a quick stir fry or a big pot of soup. It's a great way to be able to introduce a lot of variety into a single dish. We need diversity in our diets too...and I like meals that are quick and/or easy.
What is the best way for our readers to order one of the produce boxes?
Our website is the go-to place for ordering our Pouaka Kai and accompanying products. Although I do always need to remind people that we only sell to specific postcodes - this is because we are new (only 4 months old) and we are striving to work with communities where food accessibility is lower. So if you live in Otautahi and your postcode is 8011, 8023, 8061 or 8062...then we would love to nourish you :)