Beneficiaries who use drugs shouldn't be eligible for help but their children should never go hungry, a Northland food bank manager says.
From this week thousands of people are expected to be cut from welfare benefits as sweeping changes to the social security system take effect.
Nationwide, 8000 beneficiaries with arrest warrants outstanding for offences such as unpaid fines will have their benefits halved unless they clear warrants within 38 days.
Those without children will lose their benefits altogether.
Drug-testing of job-seekers is expected to cut benefits for a further 5800 people.
Anti-poverty campaigners have slammed the reforms, labelling them a brutal crackdown on the country's most disadvantaged.
Kaitaia Fresh Start Family Services & Food Bank manager Rose Walker said beneficiaries had already come to her for help after after having their welfare cut.
This was expected to spike now the latest reforms were in place, but the organisation had little sympathy for drug users who jeopardised their families.
"If they can afford to buy drugs, they can afford to feed their families," she said.
One man who had lost his benefit because of drugs had come for help three weeks ago.
"The only reason I gave him a parcel was because he had a little girl.
"If he hadn't, I would've sent him on his way.
"We have to work hard to get the money to buy the food to feed these families, and I am not going to give it to bludgers."
However, cases that involved children were an exception, she said.
"The kids come first. We will never let children go hungry. Never."
The welfare system overhaul has already seen sickness beneficiaries, sole parents and widows with no children aged under 14 face the same requirements to find work as other jobless people.
Since October single parents have been required to work part-time when their youngest child turns 5 and full-time when they turn 14.
Those with children under 5 have been required to take reasonable steps "to prepare for employment" such as training and work experience.
Ministry of Social Development figures show 18,000 Northland residents collected benefits in March this year, down from 18,133 a year earlier.
From July until December last year, 107 Northland beneficiaries had their benefits cancelled and five had theirs halved after failing to meet work-testing requirements.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the new approach would offer people more individualised support, especially targeting those at risk of long-term dependence.
The new work obligations for single parents were an opportunity for beneficiaries to get back into the working world.