The number of Bay of Plenty preschoolers going to daycare hungry, anxious and with only one set of clothing has soared as the economic toll of the Covid-19 pandemic hits families.
The number of children on a KidsCan waitlist for help with food and warm clothing has jumped by about 300 since February to 539. The number of early childhood centres on the list has almost doubled - from eight to 15.
Since April, the charity had had an almost 30 per cent rise in the number of early childhood centres waiting for help nationwide. The increase is being linked to the impact of the country's lockdowns.
Te Timatanga Hou ki Whakatāne Kohanga Reo teacher Herehere Te Papa said the situation had got so bad since lockdown that she "dreaded"
opening children's lunchboxes.
She said children were coming with less food, if any, and she and other teachers were spending their own money to buy bread, eggs and cereal for them.
They had started giving every child at the kohanga reo breakfast to ensure no one started the day hungry, she said, but the cost was not easy to cover.
Te Papa said many children also had just one set of clothing, which she became aware of when she realised many were not able to get them wet.
She said she packed extra lunches daily for her own children to give to those without and had started searching their rooms for spare clothes
for other kids.
KidsCan support would "lift the weight off our shoulders" and help control the constant "worry" she felt for some of the children at the kohanga reo, she said.
"So many of them hardly have anything. It is so tight right now for so many.
"It would bring a bit of light to our kohanga in such a dark, dark time."
Rotorua's Amazing Place preschool manager Leanne Gulliver said
had lost jobs or taken income hits since lockdown and were asking the preschool for help.
The emotional toll economic hardship was having on families was affecting children and some were coming in sluggish, tired and anxious as things got hard at home, she said.
"It has a really negative impact on their behaviour and mindsets."
She knew of one family who had suffered a loss of income post-lockdown and the behaviour of the children at the centre had reflected the hard time they were having at home, she said.
any families struggled
to scrape up the money for healthy and nutritious food for their children.
"It's no secret that unhealthy food is the cheaper option. Who are we to judge when families are struggling? But children can't live on chips and biscuits."
She said they applied
for KidsCan support as the need was like nothing they had seen before and they wanted to take "some pressure off".
The preschool joined 15 other early childhood centres with a total of 539 children in the Bay of Plenty
on a waiting list for help from KidsCan.
The number had doubled from eight
372 children in eight Bay of Plenty centres receiving help from the charity. Every child received a raincoat, shoes, head lice treatment and five meals a week.
Maketu Educare was one of the Bay of Plenty childhood centres that benefitted from help from the charity.
Teacher Chrissie Keepa said some children used to turn up
with empty stomachs, no shoes and with little winter clothing.
Now the centre was able to provide the children with healthy meals, which improved their concentration spans and development, The shoes and jackets were also great for excursions.
"Having KidsCan on our side has taken the pressure off parents having to sort out healthy eating for their children, especially with today's living costs."
KidsCan's founder Julie Chapman said it was crucial "that we reach these preschoolers waiting for support as soon as possible".
"Teachers have told us of siblings with only a packet of two-minute noodles to share for the day, of children shivering without enough warm clothes, and of several families crammed into houses to afford rent, including 11 people in a two-bedroom home."
KidsCan was calling for help from Kiwis to extend its early childhood programme to under-5s.
People looking to donate can head to the KidsCan NZ website.