Financially-strained families are getting desperate as Auckland's lockdown drags on - and they have no respite today as school returns online for Term 4.
While some students will move seamlessly back into online learning, principals in poorer parts of the city say they're living in a different world.
Some of their students are impossible to contact, with phone numbers and addresses changing and families in survival mode as they focus on paying rent and keeping the lights on.
One mother has had to resort to hunting through a supermarket's rubbish bin for food, while others are skipping meals to feed their children, according to the charity KidsCan.
•'Two minute noodles fill their bellies': Lockdown leaving families with bare cupboards
• More than half of students drop off radar at some Auckland schools
• Searching for a home: A mother's mission to find somewhere to live in a cruel market
• Plea for more green time, less screen time when kids get back to school
Ōtāhuhu Primary Principal Jason Swann said some students hadn't been online over the two-month lockdown.
Teachers tried to keep in touch with students but some families might also have changed address, moving in with relatives after a parent lost their job.
"When I watch TV and the news coverage, and we look at families who are sitting at the breakfast bar and everyone has an individual device ... that's just not our world.
"Our world is that if we're lucky, the device that some families have is the parent's phone, and they don't have internet connectivity, they're using their phone data.
"So when the phone data runs out, which is pretty quick, you have to download something that chews it up and that can be the end of it. That can be the full extent of the digital communication."
In some cases there were three or four families in a house - one to a bedroom, he said.
"It's sort of marae-style sleeping arrangements ... We're not talking spacious places either. It's just a very stressful place to be in," he said.
After previous lockdowns it had taken up to three weeks for children to return, but he said they couldn't wait to get back.
"They love that interaction and connection with their friends ... and to get back into learning together."
But he expected some reluctance, with high anxiety in a community where Covid is "very real".
"It's not something that we watch on the news and think oh, that's happening to them. We're in the middle of it."
The school delivered hard packs to students before the holidays, and staff had been making up more this week, including buying stationery for those who didn't have it.
Many teachers and principals had been working solidly through the holidays, Swann said.
Paul Pirihi, principal of Rosebank School in Avondale, was also full of praise for his staff, who had been working extremely hard to help kids keep learning.
"You've got to do everything for the kids. We think we've got it rough but it's tougher for the kids."
The Ministry of Education had been pulling out all the stops over lockdown and was getting internet connectivity to students who needed it. The school had loaned Chromebooks to some, while others were using hard packs.
After previous lockdowns, all the children returned within three or four days. But Delta could be different, Pirihi said.
The school had a community hub and social worker on site and also received great support from local charities like I Love Avondale. Families at Rosebank and Ōtāhuhu also received food boxes from KidsCan in August as part of the its 19for19 campaign.
It aimed to fund 2500 food boxes for the families worst affected by the lockdown, but thanks to the public's generosity, 6000 boxes were sent out.
KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman said mothers had called the charity crying because they didn't know how they could feed their children, with some skipping meals so their kids could eat.
One woman had resorted to looking through supermarket bins to find freshly discarded food.
KidsCan normally distributes food through schools, but it can't do that in level 3 regions.
Cabinet will meet this afternoon to decide on any alert level changes, including whether Auckland kids can return to school.
Food orders are being packed at the KidsCan warehouse so they will be ready when schools reopen - otherwise, Chapman said, they would find another way to get food to families.
She had been "blown away" by the generosity of those who were able to donate.
Asked what else the Government should be doing, Chapman said the real issue was New Zealand's high rate of poverty.
"The problems were there a long time before lockdown. They've been exacerbated by it, and are really now tipping families over the edge into significant material hardship and food insecurity.
"We need to see more action, and addressing it so that families don't have to rely on food parcels and charities, and in an ideal world, everyone would be able to access the food they need, and be empowered to do so by having enough income."
Donations can be made to KidsCan at www.kidscan.org.nz.