More than 25,000 more households are asking for food hardship grants compared to this time last year. That's according to new statistics by the Ministry of Social Development.
Meanwhile, charity KidsCan says a record number of food items sent out to schools have also increased.
CEO Julie Chapman says at the beginning of this term they sent out over a million items in hope to alleviate the pressure on families.
Chapman says, "I'm not surprised by the uplift in numbers at all because it echoes what we're seeing here at KidsCan."
"This year alone we've added more than 30 decile 1-4 schools to our programmes so these results are just mirroring what we already know; it's tough out there and families are struggling to put food on the table."
KidsCan now supports 732 primary, intermediate and high schools in all 16 regions of New Zealand, offering food, shoes, socks, raincoats and health and hygiene items.
"What we're witnessing out there in our communities is an increase in the numbers of kids arriving at school hungry. 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."
KidsCan feeds almost 30,000 children every week, many of whom access the food daily and Julie says she's seeing no signs of the numbers decreasing.
"Every year I'm asked about the level of need in our communities and I'm tremendously troubled by the fact that every 12 months the problem seems to be getting worse. The level of deprivation we're seeing first-hand by those in need is heart-breaking.
"After 13 years of supporting children in need this is as bad as I've seen. 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?"
KidsCan is asking New Zealanders to recognise what an incredibly crucial time this is. There are still thousands of Kiwi kids in need of help with 135,000 children living in households forced to go without 7 or more essentials.
"There are certainly good intentions from the Government to tackle child poverty and material hardship and I'm very aware that these are complex and multi-faceted issues, but it's clear from the statistics that these children and families need help and assistance today. They have introduced a range of initiatives but right now, there is no long-term solution in sight and as a country we must try and turn this around," she says.
"The situation is getting desperate."
"$20 a month is all it takes to support a Kiwi kid. That amount of money is almost insignificant for many of us, but for a child, it will keep them fed, clothed and able to receive vital health and hygiene items for a whole year."