Cost of living crisis: More than half a million people rely on food charity each month 

Hundreds of thousands of people are relying on an Auckland food charity each month as the cost of living crisis pushes them to the brink.   

The New Zealand Food Network rescues food that would normally end up in landfills and give it to families in need. It is dealing with a drastic spike in the number of people needing help.   

CEO Gavin Findlay told Newshub months of high living costs are starting to collide for many Kiwis and they're unable to afford the basics.   

"Earlier on in the year, we kind of took a pulse of post-COVID needs and we saw an 165 percent rise in demand for services across our food hubs. Six months later, it's risen by another 20 percent.  

"We thought the demand would kind of flatten out after COVID but obviously the cost of living is really prevalent."  

Findlay said post COVID around 450,000 people were using their services each month, but now they're seeing around 600,000 people – nearly 11 percent of the population.  

"It's not endemic and it's not every day, all the day. A number of people may only be coming four, five or six times a year. But the numbers of people that are doing that are growing and growing." 

He said the number of people who need very regular support is relatively stable, but the number of people, especially working people, needing occasional support is increasing.  

Findlay said working parents are being forced to prioritise housing and petrol and are finding themselves having to forgo food to get by.   

He said families who have been struggling to get by have exhausted all their resources and are now relying on food banks.   

"Many people have just got to the end of their tether in terms of the community support and help that they can get from their friends and family, or they've exhausted their own resources. It's all kind of coming to fruition with their dollar is not going as far as it did."  

The demand is also putting pressure on the New Zealand Food Network which has launched a fundraising campaign in the hopes of helping as many people as possible.   

The 12-month Pitch In campaign is calling on food businesses and the public to pitch in with financial and bulk food donations to (virtually) fill Auckland's iconic Eden Park with meals.  

Every time the pitch is filled from one end to the other, NZFN will provide 100,000 meals to Kiwis in need.  

Kiwi legends such as former Rugby World Champion Piri Weepu, Professional Rugby Player Sam Slade, award-winning Special Olympics athlete Grace Payne and Comedian Leigh Hart are supporting the cause.  

Findlay hopes the campaign will allow NZFN to "do more" to help feed families and reduce food waste in Aotearoa.   

Findlay isn't alone. Community leader and life coach Dave Letele - aka Brown Buttabean - is also seeing a huge increase in the need for food from his programme BBM Kai.    

Letele told AM BBM Kai is feeding between 400 to 700 hundred families every week.    

"If you extrapolate that out that's thousands of people who rely on our services every week," he said.    

"People talk about the impacts of inflation and inflation reducing but, you know, we are not seeing that on the ground."   

Letele said the cost of living increases have been "really tough" for families and many are one big bill away from needing to use food banks.    

"It's really tough times. Families are doing it incredibly tough. We've had an increase in families who have both parents working full-time jobs and they need this service.    

"It's not just people who you would think would always need the service of a food bank. It's middle class, it's working class and there's no more room for sick children, dentists, broken down cars or a flat tire.    

"If anything like that happens they need a service like ours. There are no more savings, there's nothing."