Selwyn Park School principal Vern Stevens isn't concerned about children turning up bare foot.
After all, he attended school in Dargaville unshod himself.
What he is concerned about, though, is the overcrowded housing situation in the district impacting his students.
Stevens said he had witnessed demographic change over the 66 years he had lived in Dargaville which - most recently - had seen older New Zealanders buying homes in which to retire.
The influx had left others struggling to find accommodation, leaving families to cram together in what was left.
While shared housing offered some positives, such as more whānau support, the crowded conditions meant less space for children, leraving some to share beds, sleep on sofas or a mattress on the floor.
Stevens' comments come as KidsCan kicks off its winter campaign which Selwyn Park School, a decile-one primary in Dargaville, has been benefiting from for a decade.
Stevens said the provision of food, clothing and health products made a huge difference to his students - even though he was "not all that fussed on the shoes".
"I spent all my school life going to school barefoot and they take them off anyway. We put our hands up for everything we can get and they are very generous."
Last year, 48,700 fleece-lined jackets were distributed across the nation, with a further 60,000 children set to receive one this year. With shared housing similar to flatting, said Stevens, the handouts gave the kids a sense of ownership having their own belonging.
"Some kids' eyes just light up when they get a new jacket. It's something that's theirs and they get a real lift.
"The main issue for me in terms of poverty is our inadequate housing. We don't have people living in cars but I know a number of people living in the one house."
He said he knew of three families, including solo mums, each with three kids, living under the one roof.
"We're starting to see more overcrowding because properties and rentals have been bought up by retirees from Auckland, which are taking our families' rentals off the market. Families are moving in together to save money as they're struggling to find a house."
Stevens had been principal in the area for 20 years and seen a huge change over that time.
"The demographic has changed altogether, but really it's followed the rural decline that's gone right across the country. We're just not getting young blood and our community has lost its vibrancy," he said.
"We're becoming a very large retirement village. It's got a really skewed demographic population."
He explained that a lack of incentive for younger people to move back to the area once they had completed university was a problem.
"There are no banks or post offices so there are no opportunities for job transfers. Also, back in the day, teachers would transfer to Dargaville to carry out a country service. Many are leaving and just not coming back so major projects in town are being driven by people my age. That's okay, but the energy's getting a bit low now," he laughed.
However, despite the living conditions, the 110 pupils at his school were clothed and fed as one of 116 low-decile schools in Northland - and 829 schools nationwide - to receive support from the charity. In addition, 13 Northland early childhood centres were receiving support (112 nationwide).
A further two Northland schools, involving 36 students, (13 schools nationwide) and 15 early childhood centres, involving 413 children (127 nationwide), were still waiting for help. They would be included in the programme when enough sustainable funds were available to support them.
Hora Hora Primary School principal and Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president Pat Newman said he'd "walk over water" for KidsCan.
"We've used them for quite a while and received breakfast, shoes, raincoats. (The children still awaiting help) are likely to be going to school without shoes, dry clothes and breakfast.
"There's no doubt that children who are warm, well-clothed and fed are a lot more amenable with the way their learn. Instead of trying to survive, they're there to learn."
While Northland doesn't reach freezing temperature levels – hence the shoeless children, KidsCan CEO Julie Chapman said, in some areas teachers were finding children in shoes patched with cardboard, tape and staples.
"They say socks have become 'a luxury'. They tell us of children sleeping in their jackets to keep warm in freezing homes.
"Winter is the toughest time of year for a child living in poverty. Many live in freezing homes where hot food and warm clothes are scarce. That put extra pressure on schools and early childhood centres because children functioned at a lower level if cold or hungry.
Education was the path out of poverty, so it's important that they make it to school. We want every Kiwi kid to feel full, warm and happy this winter.