A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival of Christmas.

The social service provider has seen a 40 per cent increase in demand for food parcels this year, with a total of 23,020 flying out the door by June.

Missioner Chris Farrelly told the Herald the "cupboards are bare" and without an emergency food drive he is worried about how the charity will continue to provide for those in need.

"Literally we cannot do it at the moment. We are struggling just to get through what we need to do day by day, there is not much we can actually put aside for the pre-Christmas period," he said.

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"Our warehouse is pretty much empty, and for Christmas in our country – food is pretty important."

In order to meet daily demands, and prepare for the festive season, the City Mission is calling on people to start donating non-perishable food items now.

"We need to start packing our Christmas boxes this month to meet the demand expected at the end of the year but right now we don't have enough to begin that work.

"We are desperately seeking support so we can make Christmas happen for Auckland's most vulnerable residents," he said.

People line up outside the Auckland City Mission in Auckland's Hobson St, as they wait in hope of getting food packages. Photo / Greg Bowker
People line up outside the Auckland City Mission in Auckland's Hobson St, as they wait in hope of getting food packages. Photo / Greg Bowker

Farrelly said while demand had been increasing year on year, the 2019 increase of 40 per cent was the greatest they'd ever seen.

"We have yet to have a year where we can say we have levelled out, let alone say there is a decrease.

"If we can't fulfil this demand, we will not be able to run our Christmas services in the way we have every year – which is a time of particularly high need," he said.

Farrelly said the demand was a reflection of the stresses that many households are under in terms of income meeting expenditure.

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"It's a reflection of minimum wages, benefit levels, and other costs that are hitting families. There is just not enough to meet demands week on week," he said.

"After you've had to pay fixed costs and emergency costs, the only discretionary thing left is food."

Farrelly said easier access to support could also have contributed to the rise in demand.

He said the need was across the board, and the myth that people requesting food parcels are unemployed or on a benefit was untrue.

"There is a growing number of working people who are on minimum wages, or a single income, with kids to support.

"We find that a lot of these families are phenomenal budgeters, and incredibly diligent, but they have a very small amount to work with, and when an emergency comes there is nowhere else to go," he said.

But despite growing demand, and worries over a dwindling supply of stock to meet the need, Farrelly remains positive that the community will step up to help.

"I probably see some of the worst and saddest things that are happening in our country, but I actually also see the best. The amount of support the City Mission gets from the community in terms of assisting our high-need people is absolutely phenomenal," he said.

"I do believe we will get to a point we can carry on ... because we know there are people and organisations across the city with big hearts who want to help."

• As part of the emergency food drive Auckland City Mission is asking people to donate non-perishable food items, including canned meat and fish, and Christmas food items.

• Items can be dropped to the Mission Distribution Centre, 15 Auburn St, Grafton, between 9am and 3pm Monday–Saturday.

• For large donations people can get in touch on distribution@aucklandcitymission.org.nz or 09 377 4322.