Expected price rises for green leafy vegetables due to a shortage caused by poor growing conditions over summer will only further push them out of the reach of many people, says Mel King from The Food Basket.
Growers across the North Island have blamed the wet and humid conditions on a shortage of produce like lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower.
Supermarkets have put up notices alerting customers to the shortage, with prices rising as a result of the reduced supply.
But Mel, who late last year launched CHB's only food rescue group, The Food Basket, said based on what she saw, fresh vegetables and fruit were already unaffordable for many.
"People that can't afford to feed their families sufficient volumes of food can't even think of buying fruit and veg — apart from meat, which is kind of a case of take it or leave it — it's the most expensive part of grocery shopping."
The Food Basket operates threes times a week in Waipukurau, from midday on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Initially it was sited outside the CHB Plunket Rooms, but has been operating from Te Taiwhenua o Tamatea in recent weeks. Up to 100 people were using the service each session and due to demand, The Food Basket has started operating once a week in Waipawa out of the Senior Citizens Building on Waverley St, from 11am on Tuesday mornings.
When the service first launched, most of the donated foodstuffs were high carb items like breads, cakes and pasta. But now there was a growing amount of fresh fruit and vegetables available from gardeners who were swapping their homegrown produce for bread and other items.
"So now probably a third of the food at every session is fruit and greens. And what we're finding is that people will go straight for the fruit and veges first," Mel said.
Megan Buckeridge from Buck's Greengrocer in Waipukurau, said her family-owned and operated business had not escaped the poor growing conditions.
The business grows most of its own spray-free produce, but last week had no lettuce.
"We had a bit of rain and some hot weather, so it made the lettuce go all slimy, and made the cauliflower and broccoli go to seed."
Instead she recommended people look at vegetables in season to overcome the shortage and avoid the hefty prices.
"You don't need to have a lettuce to have a salad, you can use your silverbeet, your fresh sweet corn kernels, tomatoes, capsicums ... it's all in season right here."
She said her local business could offer prices for vegetables "30 per cent — sometimes 50 per cent cheaper".
To compete with the supermarkets, her business started offering $20 fruit and vegetables boxes delivered to customers' homes in Waipukurau and Waipawa back in October.
"They've been going really well," Megan said.