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Food by VICE

Gang Members Are Feeding New Zealand’s Hungry Children

One in four children live below the poverty line in New Zealand. The Tribal Huks, a gang that's made headlines for violent assaults and robberies in the country's North Island, is trying to help feed 70,000 hungry kids.

by Tim Jesudason
Nov 12 2014, 4:00pm

Kids have it tough in New Zealand's rural communities, where one in four children live below the poverty line. In response to the failure of politicians in tackling child poverty, one New Zealand gang—the Tribal Huks of Ngaruawahia—has been making over 500 sandwiches per day in an effort to feed kids who are sent to school without food.

The Tribal Huks have operated in New Zealand's North Island since 1958, making headlines for violent assaults and robberies. MUNCHIES caught up with Jamie Pink, the gang's long-serving president, to learn more about their sandwich-making activities.

MUNCHIES: Hey, Jamie. How did this all come about? Jamie Pink: We decided to start feeding the kids two and a half years ago. A lot of us in the gang were hungry little kids growing up around the country, and we wanted to try and get to the 70,000 hungry kids in New Zealand. Our population's only 4.2 million, and the sheep outnumber us ten to one. We've got the resources, so something needs to be done about it.

How do you go about it? It starts the night before. We get five trays of eggs done. The girls get into that. Got to have that ladies' touch. Then, at six in the morning, we get the bread from a place called Coupons. They're 90 cents a loaf. They give us a pretty good deal. At 7 AM, we start making the sandwiches—beef, egg, tomato, and lettuce sandwiches. Some ham and egg ones, too. You got some Muslim kids who don't eat beef and eggs so they get jam sammies—healthy stuff. All the Christian kids are OK; they don't mind the meat and the egg, but we got to cater for everybody. By 8:30 AM, we're finished making about 500 sandwiches and we hit the road.

So, you have a system. How are you funding it? Well, we've got two big farms, 50 acres all up. We've got two piggeries with over 100 pigs, and we've also got 50 beef and over 60 sheep. That's where we get a lot of our food from. We've got a backpackers and a small hotel in Hamilton, opposite the casino, that makes us a little bit of money. We've got 150 members, so we pass the hat around every now and then and get money that way, too.

Sweet. How do the kids react to being fed by gang members? 'Cause we're feeding them, they come and write us letters and all sorts. Every Christmas, we get hundreds of letters, and they make little pictures and thank us. It makes us feel good about it. We've also got a big Christmas coming up where we'll have free presents and a Santa Claus—a Maori Santa Claus. A big boy.

So do you think you're a good role model for the kids? I wouldn't say we're the greatest role models 'cause we're gang members. A lot of us come from bad backgrounds and are pretty violent, to be fair and honest. But this is more important. I think we're bad people in a way, but we're not doing bad things at the moment. I wouldn't say we're great people, but we do good things, aye.

I don't want the kids to become like us. I don't want that. I'd rather them become educated, get good jobs, become doctors, and put back into society. But if people want to grow up and be gang members, we're not going to stop them either. Gang members get a bad rep in New Zealand but there are good people in the cliques. You only hear about the bad things.

What would you say are the biggest risks facing the kids in your area? If they don't get fed, they grow up angry. It's as simple as that. We grew up pretty angry and it does something to you. You know, you go to school and you see other kids with food, and animosity starts there. They've got a ham sandwich and some bikkies and you've got nothing. Straight away, you get a bit upset. Kids that do grow up hungry are more likely to join gangs and crime. It does something to them mentally and physically and to your soul. I can vouch for that.

Thanks for speaking to me.

Santa Claus
Jamie Pink
Tribal Huks of Ngaruawahia