Lavish Christmas fare and presents won't be on everybody's menu this year judging by shocking statistics released by the Salvation Army.

Food parcel request have shot up 25 per cent in Whanganui so far this year with demand expected to be even greater heading into the festive season.

Salvation Army head of social services Major Pam Waugh said thousands of New Zealand families are living in desperate need and poverty doesn't take a break at Christmas.

"This level of poverty, and the stress and heartache it brings can't be justified," says Major Waugh.

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"How can we sit down to a nice Christmas Day meal, surrounded by loved ones, knowing there are thousands of families without anything to eat, let alone gifts under the tree?"

Nationally more than 10,000 people have needed help with food parcels in the last three months alone.

Locally demand for housing assistance has risen 15 per cent as more Whanganui families have turned to the charity for help.

"The Salvation Army's State of the Nation Report 2017 shows there are around 300,000 children deemed to be living in poverty in this country and concurrently we are hearing that half our country's wealth is sitting with the top 10 per cent of individuals," says Major Waugh.

"It's not right and it's time for us to front up and act as a community."

The Salvation Army's Christmas Appeal, under way this week, is a chance to help the charity meet the increased demand for assistance.

"Funds raised through the Christmas Appeal give people not only Christmas Day to enjoy, but also the tools and support needed to make positive changes for the future."

Donations can be made online at salvationarmy.org.nz or by phoning 0800 530 000.