A sudden spike in demand for food parcels has run Salvation Army's stocks dry.
Volunteers at the church's Whangarei office fear they may be forced to buy items for 200 Christmas hampers in a week's time.
The army's director of community ministries in Whangarei, Peter Mullenger, said there was "absolutely nothing spare" to hand out to those turning up in the lead-up to Christmas.
The situation has led to the Northern Advocate launching an appeal focusing on urgently gathering cash and food items for the Army.
The church's food bank on Aubrey St is seeing more than 30 families a day, instead of 20.
Mr Mullenger said this September quarter had seen a 22 per cent increase in demand or 847 food parcels compared to 696 for the same period last year.
"Although the community is still giving as they normally do ... we are just not keeping up with the demand. We normally do well at this time," he said.
Even staples such as muesli bars and cereal have run out and Mr Mullenger fears children's breakfasts will be affected.
"It's never been like this. A 22 per cent increase in demand, that's a significant jump and I think with the stress of Christmas upon families, they may have decided to spend less on food items," he said.
Lack of donations made matters worse but he was hopeful the situation would improve next week; in time for the Christmas hampers on Thursday week.
Demand for food parcels rose for a number of reasons.
Previously, mostly single mothers and large families turned up for food parcels but Mr Mullenger said he'd noticed single fathers and youths seeking help lately.
Mr Mullenger has appealed to individuals and businesses for donations that could be dropped off either at the army's Aubrey St office or at the Northern Advocate office on Robert St.