Dramatically rising food prices are leading to a record number of families facing dire situations, according to a community non-profit organisation.
Latest figures show food prices were 7.6 per cent higher in March than the year before - the biggest annual increase in more than a decade.
Prices for fruit and vegetables were 18 per cent higher.
A community non-profit organisation offering budgeting advice is handling record requests for help from struggling families.
Ngā Tāngata Microfinance chief executive Natalie Vincent said rising living costs were causing inquiries for loans to soar.
Non-profit lending had shot up from 30 inquiries a month for help before Covid-19, to 500 a month.
"People just cannot live on what they are receiving," Vincent said.
"[For] the people that we work with - this is a survival issue."
A new base of clients were are finding themselves in severe debt, with people taking out loans for essential costs rather than overconsumption.
"We're seeing a new base of clients," Vincent told Morning Report.
"It's actually people taking out debt to live.
"We're encouraging people to reach out for help but if there's not enough support for them, we've got a real problem."
Finance Minister Grant Robertson told First Up the rising cost of food was a global problem linked to disrupted supply chains as New Zealanders faced the highest annual rise in food prices in just over 10 years.
He said some of the drivers of soaring food prices, such as closed ports in China, were out of his hands.
"I've seen similar increases in other countries around the world, so this genuinely is a global problem," Robertson said.
"As a result of that, the solutions to it are difficult for New Zealand on our own.
"We've got supply chain constraints, China's got lockdown so they're closing their ports."
Robertson said the government was working on supermarket competition.
"We've got recommendations from the Commerce Commission that we really are pushing in on now to make sure New Zealanders do get as fair a deal as possible."