Kiwi families face starvation and are in desperate need of food parcels to survive.
KidsCan warns it's sent out a record number of food items to schools as requests from hungry families increase.
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The children's charity has sent 1.28 million items of food to schools at the beginning of term three as parents struggle with pressure on their food budgets.
And on Tuesday, the Auckland City Mission reported it had distributed 15,879 emergency food parcels over the past 12 months - a huge increase from 12,753 in the previous year. The Mission says families are unable to afford enough appropriate, quality food, and as a result are needing emergency food assistance.
"What we're witnessing out there in our communities is an increase in the numbers of kids arriving at school hungry," says CEO and founder of KidsCan, Julie Chapman.
"We've heard a lot of stories about older children going without so their younger siblings can eat, it's pretty dire. There is simply not enough money coming in to pay high rents, increased petrol costs and other bills.
"It's not that people want their children to go hungry, there is just not enough money to stretch out to cover food for a whole week."
The latest report from the Ministry of Social Development shows that the number of hardship assistance grants provided were 321,244 in the June 2018 quarter, worth a combined total of $88.1 million. This is an increase from 267,374 grants in the same period last year.
"Increased demand on food parcel services is evidence of the heightened community distress that requires urgent and sustained relief by way of much more adequate support from the State," says Professor Toni Ashton, Child Poverty Action Group health spokesperson.
"It is probably only the tip of the iceberg as many families may not be able to access help in the form of food parcels, or for others feelings of shame may prevent them seeking charity relief."
KidsCan feeds almost 30,000 children every week and Ms Chapman says she's seeing no signs of the numbers decreasing.
"After 13 years of supporting children in need this is as bad as I've seen," she says.
"I don't shock easily but we're now seeing families in such hardship that they are trying to feed their family on less than $20 per week.
"We are also seeing kids turning up to school hungry and with no lunch. How are these little ones supposed to learn if they aren't even receiving the basics?"