For some, Mother's Day will be marked with brunch out at a nice cafe and a bouquet of flowers.

But for others the holiday will be just another day trying to scrape together a family meal.

Solo mum Athena has six children aged 2 to 17 and did not get a Mother's Day present. Instead her kids drew her a picture.

Athena is backing Auckland City Mission's call for donations for its Mother's Day appeal which will fund food, sanitary products and other essential items for families in need.

Athena has six children and relies on food parcels from The City Mission. Photo / Doug Sherring
Athena has six children and relies on food parcels from The City Mission. Photo / Doug Sherring

without - they didn't get Christmas presents either.

"We don't go around buying gifts. We've never had money to do that. I've just taught my kids that making a gift from the heart means more than anything.

"There are a lot of mothers here in New Zealand who don't get to celebrate the day at all. Our celebration is just being with our kids. We don't get anything special."

She said her Jobseeker's benefit goes towards her rent which is $550 a week for her three-bedroom Manurewa home. Her family tax credit of $350 covers her weekly expenses of $80 power, $179 debt, $40 fuel and what's left over is around $50 for food and other necessities.

The average mum collecting a food parcel from the City Mission has just $23.75 left to spend per person, per week on grocery items after bills.

City Mission gave out 13,700 food parcels in the year ending in June 2016. A standard parcel for a family of four contains $65 worth of food including 18 tins, 1kg meat, 3kg of vegetables and most staples like cereal and pasta.

Athena's family live off food parcels. It's a good parcel when it contains easy to use and filling food, she said. But some contain items like chickpeas, batteries and chewing gum.

"I'm like 'ok, how do we eat the batteries? How is that going to help our situation?'

"Even though we get a food parcel it doesn't necessarily mean that's the family sorted."

Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) advocate Moana Wetiha has been helping solo mums for years. She doubted they would be bothered about getting a present for Mother's Day.

"They are absolutely not getting anything. They have much bigger things to worry about than getting pampered."

City Mission chief executive Chris Farrelly wanted to emphasise that about 80 per cent of those who get emergency food support are mothers. He said they had heard countless stories of mums who skip meals in order to feed their kids, others who have put off visiting the doctor when horribly sick and instances of asking for feminine hygiene products that they can't afford.

"Asking for help shouldn't be stigmatised, especially when the people asking are largely responsible for raising the next generation of Kiwis," Farrelly said.

"It takes a village to raise a single child, according to the old saying, so surely a city as generous as ours can make sure our struggling mums - and dads - are supported."

AAAP has organised a Mother's Day protest outside the National Party Northern Regional Convention where Bill English is making a keynote speech. They intend to address the punishment of sole mothers in the welfare system, AAAP spokesperson Vanessa Cole said.

"Work and Income take $22 to $28 per child, per week from sole mothers who do not name the father on the birth certificate. They are also sanctioned for not entering the paid workforce," Cole said.

"Sanctions take money from families who are already facing hardship. It can be the difference between having food for school lunches and sending children to school hungry."

Go to Auckland City Mission to donate.