KidsCan appeals for help as 'talking shoes' become a staple in NZ schools during winter

School teachers and principals are speaking up about how Kiwi children's footwear is revealing a hard-hitting truth around child poverty over winter.

KidsCan's CEO Julie Chapman told Newshub winter is the "toughest time of year" for children living in poverty with homes freezing cold, while hot food and warm clothes are scarce.

"That puts extra pressure on schools and early childhood centres because children can't function if they are cold or hungry. Education is their path out of poverty, so it's important that they make it to school. We want every Kiwi kid to feel full, warm and happy this winter."

One common giveaway that a family is struggling to make ends meet is the condition of the children's shoes.

"We call them talking shoes, kids walking in and the whole front is just apart," a teacher said. "We've seen shoes that kids have taped up with sellotape or they've even tried to staple them together, bless them. I've seen a pair where the sole was completely bare so their socks were always wet."

One principal told Newshub one student had "cut up a ring binder to patch a hole in the bottom of his shoes because his dad had lost his job and he didn't want to tell him his shoes had worn out".

Chapman told The AM Show on Tuesday her charity has seen shoes with all sorts of temporary fixes as parents can't afford new pairs of shoes.

"They become a luxury. I don't think people understand… people are living in deficit and it's not because they are smoking cigarettes or down at the pub. These things like a pair of shoes, a warm coat in winter, become luxury items they can't afford."

One principal said they recently had a Kiwi boy break down when he thought he was in trouble for wearing the wrong shoes.

"They were sneakers, not in great condition, and they were his only shoes," they said. "He was holding back tears and his voice was breaking as he told me. 'I have to have these because my Mum's got no money'. He's only 5. It's incredibly sad that he's aware of that."

Kidscan is currently providing hundreds of students with food, clothing and health items but Chapman says they need more help.

The charity already has record demand for its fleece-lined jackets, with 60,000 students due to receive one this year.

"Kids and their families do it really tough in winter. We've launched an appeal right now because we have got 4000 kids who are missing out on the basics," she said.