Six kids take turns coming to school in their family's one warm jacket at a South Auckland school.

They are among the 4002 kids on the waiting list for support from KidsCan, the longest list they've had in five years.

The children's charity is swamped with schools desperately looking for access to food, clothing, shoes and health products.

Papatoetoe South School principal Mark Barratt said their students are in dire need of support. Currently if it rains, up to one-quarter of his students stay home because they don't have wet-weather gear.

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Barratt explained that the parents don't want their children getting wet and cold because they can't afford to take them to the doctor.

"A lot of families from Manukau are a week away from a crisis. If nothing goes wrong they can survive, but as soon as the car breaks down they don't have the money to repair the car.

"It's not like they're living like this the whole time, but when they get into strife they can't get out."

Currently more than 151,000 children have access to KidsCan's support in 646 low-decile schools across the country.

But a further 51 schools from Northland to Southland are on the waiting list.

Children can't learn properly when they're cold, hungry and tired Barratt said. Some of his students were living with their whole family in a garage because the rent was affordable.

Barratt wanted to emphasise that they were not bad parents.

"These are really good parents who love their children and work really hard for their children.

"Wages have stayed pretty still while costs haven't and housing has gone through the roof. Any spare money goes to that.

KidsCan chief executive and co-founder Julie Chapman​ urges Kiwis to sponsor a kid on their 4000-person waiting list. Photo / KidsCan
KidsCan chief executive and co-founder Julie Chapman​ urges Kiwis to sponsor a kid on their 4000-person waiting list. Photo / KidsCan

KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman said this year had seen a steep increase in the need for food. In 2011 the need for food was 11 per cent, now it's 21 per cent.

Chapman has seen some families of four that have $80 a week to spend on food.

"One of the things that happens to keep a roof over your head, power and petrol in the car is the food budget gets cut."

The Office of the Children's Commissioner recently revealed 155,000 Kiwi kids, or 14 per cent of children, miss out on seven or more things they need for their wellbeing. Those essentials included postponed visits to the doctor, shoes or adequate warm clothing.

Many families were spending 60 per cent of their income on rent, leaving not enough money for other bills, food and necessities such as transport and clothing.

When food was given to schools better concentration was immediately noticeable, Chapman said. Fighting and bullying reduced and the children seemed happier. Shoes and warm clothing meant kids could play sport and do extracurricular activities.

"A pair of shoes doesn't just keep them warm and dry it allows them to connect with their peers and not feel excluded."

Chapman urged people and businesses to get behind the charity and sponsor a child for $15 a month, which is 50c a day.

Sign up to support a child here.