Coronavirus: 'Unprecedented' demand for food packages as Kiwis struggle during COVID-19 lockdown

With more Kiwis struggling financially due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, foodbanks are under increasing pressure, the Salvation Army says.

The charity released its latest monitoring report on Friday, revealing the demand for food during the lockdown had risen sharply. 

"The scale of the need that we're seeing is absolutely massive," the report's editor Ronji Tanielu told The AM Show.

In one week earlier this month, the organisation gave out 5895 food parcels - a 346 percent rise from the week before the lockdown began.

"That's equivalent to what we would usually give out in a month," said Tanielu "This is just unprecedented, it's huge, it's challenging, really challenging - for us and for other social services as well."

The report comes as the country's economy faces its toughest time for almost a century. 

Experts have predicted the fallout from COVID-19 will be worse than the global financial crisis of 2008 and become to the Great Depression.

Economist Cameron Bagrie earlier this month estimated the unemployment rate is likely to be around 6.5 percent currently and would continue to "surge" as the effect of the pandemic was more widely felt. 

Tanielu said the Salvation Army was being "bombarded" by people needing assistance, not just by those who normally were in need of help, but also by people on temporary work visas unable to receive Government assistance and by the newly unemployed.

One of the "major concerns" the organisation had was there was "potentially a new group of people that are entering vulnerability", said Tanielu - "those who have never used the foodbank before, those who have never had Government income support before."

The sharp rise in demand has meant the Salvation Army is battling to keep up.

"We are struggling. I think many foodbanks are struggling."

Tanielu said despite the hard times many Kiwis are facing, there has also been an outpouring of generosity, with Kiwis contributing $1.7 million to the charity's Foodbank Project.

"In the midst of all the trying circumstances [New Zealanders] are still being generous."

By despite some "good-news stories" out there, the picture was particularly grim on the frontlines, he stressed.

"What we're seeing come through our doors are people who are anxious, distressed - the financial hardship, financial stress is really pressing on people."