Thousands have been lining up outside the Auckland City Mission as the lead-up to Christmas puts the pinch on people's wallets.
Nearly 2700 people have queued up for emergency food parcels and gifts in the past two weeks, and 80 per cent of those are women, missioner Chris Farrelly says.
"Women carry the burden of poverty in New Zealand, disproportionately to anyone else. Many of the people who have come to the City Mission this Christmas are women bringing up their children and other people's children on their own," he said.
One of those women is mother-of-three Margaret. The 43-year-old from Orakei works at a school tuck shop but has no income when the school year ends.
Margaret has come to the City Mission three times over the past few years for food parcels and is hoping to access a Winz special needs grant to get her through the holidays.
"I know people are driving by the City Mission and seeing people queued up, and wondering what we spent our money on, why we're here for help," Margaret says.
"But you can't judge anyone until you've walked in their shoes."
City Mission general manager for social services Helen Robinson says the women experienced a lot of shame and anxiety from having to use a food bank.
"I'm constantly amazed at their resilience. But they feel a high level of shame at not having enough food," Robinson said.
The mission says the need for donations is critical as it expects another 1300 people this week. Last year the mission distributed 4000 emergency food parcels in December.