About 2500 appreciative Kiwis will tuck into a free Christmas lunch, courtesy of your Sunday newspaper and airline Jetstar.

The airline and the Herald on Sunday have teamed up on a three-week campaign to help those less fortunate during the festive period.

Jetstar kicks things off today with a $25,000 donation towards the huge Christmas Day event hosted by the Auckland City Mission.

"This gesture will give New Zealand's biggest Christmas lunch a very welcome boost," Auckland City Missioner Diane Robertson said. "The money will go towards making an awful lot of people happy at what can be a very lonely time of year. It will pay for the food, hire of the hall, entertainment and a present for everyone."


Up to 500 volunteers will help dish up the meal at the Viaduct Events Centre.

Preparations for the event are mind-boggling. A small army of chefs will cook 240kg of ham and the same amount of chicken. On top of that, 240kg of potatoes must be peeled and an equal weight of kumara must be prepared, along with 120kg of beans and carrots. There is also dessert on the menu.

Robertson said the event wasn't just for homeless people. In recent years, hard-up families have been attending because of rising unemployment.

"We also now have families coming along who otherwise might be trapped in an abusive or unpleasant environment at Christmas - as we host an alcohol-free event, they feel safe," she said.

Jetstar boss David Hall said a big part of the airline business was bringing people together.

"New Zealanders have really rallied behind Jetstar and we are happy to give something back to the community," Hall said.