The need for food and support at some of Tauranga's low decile schools has grown and continues to grow, two local principals say.

This comes at a time when KidsCan had 2652 students from 19 schools around the country on its waiting list as the 2018 school year started – the highest number in the past three years.

Te Rangihakahaka Centre for Science and Technology in Rotorua, Kawerau South School and Karangahake School are on that waiting list.

There are no Tauranga or Western Bay schools on the list, but 17 currently receive help from KidsCan.

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Nik House, principal of Welcome Bay School, one of those receiving support, said the need "has definitely grown" in his school community.

"Really, we need more support in schools to support the growing need out there."

House said organisations like KidsCan were extremely valuable, appreciated and supportive.

"They can support in a number of ways, and it really depends on the school communicating that clearly. For us, it has been food, raincoats, shoes and hats."

Richard Inder, the principal of Gate Pa School, said KidsCan provided raincoats for all children at his school as well as snack bars and free nits/head lice treatments.

"We know there are a lot of families out there that are struggling," he said.

The school also has a breakfast club "to cater for those children who might be a bit hungry" – mostly sponsored by Fonterra and Sanitarium – and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul's Loaves and Fishes project supplies school lunches.

"My sense is that there is a need and that it's increasing all the time. There are families that are struggling, and some people are moving from house to house, and very transitional emergency housing-type situations," Inder said.

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"So getting lunch ready in the morning is probably quite difficult for them, so it's really nice to be able to say, well there's no barrier here, it's not a big deal if you're struggling, we've got an avenue to be able to help."

He said his school was "very grateful" for the support of KidsCan, which was helping a whole range of families and kids. Inder said it was a very necessary service.

The KidsCan waiting list was up by more than 1000 compared to the same time last year and the year before at back-to-school time.

The charity provides food, clothing and health programmes to 700 schools around the country with 168,000 students having access to its programmes.

Its chief executive and founder, Julie Chapman, said there had been an increase in the need for food across more than 500 of the schools her organisation supports, including in Bay of Plenty.

"We've actually increased the food allocated to schools by 20 per cent."

She said the increased need came down to people's incomes not covering everything they had to pay for and often the first things to get cut were food and household items.

"Certainly there's been an increase in rental housing costs and then, of course, less supply. People are finding it harder to make ends meet."

Chapman said KidsCan had also seen a rise in the need for health and hygiene items in schools.