It’s time to say goodbye

L to R, Nada, Hajar, Majed, Muna, Fatima, Nazia, Genet and General Manager Rebecca of Pomegranate Kitchen. Credit: Hagen Hopkins.

Yes, it’s true. At the beginning of the year, we saw that the catering arm of our social enterprise wasn’t working as it should. Our research in speaking with a similar model in the United States shows few similar food-based social enterprises have operated on a purely profit-driven model. Wage costs are too high, and the Wellington market is too small.  

After winding up our catering arm, we took the opportunity to look elsewhere for new models, and settled on community dinners. But after further research, we found that they were being done well already in community halls around the city, and we didn’t want to take funds away from these ventures. So, we have made the difficult but ultimately right decision to close our doors for good. 

Pomegranate Kitchen will no longer operate, but we are so proud of what we have already achieved. Over the two and a half years that we were in operation, we:

  •  Provided direct experience, employment, and resources to our cooks and their families, many of whom have gone on to other employment, including setting up food businesses 
  • Provided emotional support to our cooks and their families as they go through resettlement – bringing family members to New Zealand, and navigating challenging bureaucratic systems
  • Conveyed a strong message and built community support and understanding for people from a refugee background, locally and nationally. 
  • Supported other social enterprises operating in this space.

Through our kitchen, our cooks got the New Zealand work experience they needed to start their new lives and integrate into our shared community.

We were forerunners of a movement to increase employment opportunities for new New Zealanders, a movement which includes Nisa and Home Kitchen in Hamilton. That movement was built on many years of work before we came along, from Red Cross, WISE, and Changemakers.

We didn’t crack the social enterprise model for working in food, training home cooks along the way, often with language barriers. What we created was not able to continue in a crowded and small market, however loving that market was. But if anyone wants to carry on our mahi by trying something different, we are always up for sharing our learnings.

The biggest bright spot is that our cooks have been placed into kitchens like Mojo and Commonsense Organics, and our first head chef Hajar even started her own restaurant – Eden Iranian Fusion on Manners Mall. If you want to continue supporting former refugees making delicious food, we would encourage you to try there. 

We did achieve what we set out to – we changed social and financial outcomes for some former refugees, created a caring workplace with lots of laughter and good hummus, and changed the conversation about what former refugees can bring to workplaces. Not everything good can last – but we had a great run and received incredible support from Wellington, so thank you all.

Signed Rebecca, Ange, and the Pomegranate Kitchen team