The Auckland City Mission is seeing an unprecedented number of families going there for help over Christmas, with many unable to put food on the table.

The mission will cook Christmas dinner for more than 2000 people tomorrow, and has given out about 2800 food parcels to those in need over the past two weeks.

Its chief executive, Dianne Robertson, who is at the mission for her 12th Christmas period, said more people had been coming for help this year than any other, and with greater needs.

"This year has seen the greatest need, it's unprecedented need, I have not seen people queued up like this before.

"For people that are out there on low income or benefits the recession is just impacting on their lives every day, and that's what is going to continue unless there's fundamentally a huge change economically."

Team leader Irene Rama said the biggest need was people not having enough food to eat.

"Every sort of person is coming through, people who are working but their incomes are not enough. They manage from week to week but they don't have that little bit extra to get the things for Christmas."

Ms Rama said three families had come to the mission after their presents and food were stolen from their homes. They included a solo mother of five who had been paying off an expensive gaming console for six months.

She was also noticing a substantial increase in the number of small business owners who had been made redundant or were struggling due to the recession.

The mission has also been giving out thousands of Christmas presents, and everyone at tomorrow's meal will receive something.

"I was standing in the shop yesterday and this woman and her three kids walked down the road and I heard her say to her friend 'that is so great, I will now have food and presents for Christmas'. Before that this woman must have been stressing because she wasn't going to have any food," she said.

The amount of public support received had been overwhelming, she said,

"People of Auckland are so generous, they really are so, so generous. People who don't have anything give."

The Navy is cooking the mission's Christmas meal tomorrow and will truck it to Vector Arena in downtown Auckland.

Over 200 volunteers have been helping.

"But what we have to think about is our demand is not for this two weeks. Our demand is for the next 52 weeks -- it doesn't stop," Ms Rama said.

- NZPA