Women are the face of poverty - and this becomes all too apparent in the line for food parcels and gifts outside Auckland City Mission.

The charity has had overwhelming numbers of people seeking emergency help this Christmas with hundreds lining the streets - some since midnight - as the festive season draws near and puts pressure on those who can barely put food on the table.

City Missioner Chris Farrelly estimated that by the end of this week they would have assisted 4000 people - and 80 per cent or 3200 of those would be women.

"Women carry the burden of poverty in New Zealand, disproportionately to anyone else. They make huge sacrifices for children.

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"Many of the people who have come to the City Mission this Christmas are women bringing up their children, and other people's children, on their own."

A queue for City Mission food parcels and gifts on Hobson Street this year. They will see 4000 people before the end of the week. Photo / Focus
A queue for City Mission food parcels and gifts on Hobson Street this year. They will see 4000 people before the end of the week. Photo / Focus

One of the women waiting in the line is Margaret, 43, from Orakei. She works at a school tuck shop to provide for her three children. But she runs out of work when the school year ends.

Margaret doesn't want to take her 2-year-old daughter out of daycare in case she loses her place.

"So all the money I have is going to pay the daycare bill. But now I don't have any money for presents for the kids or food.

"I know people are driving by the City Mission and seeing people queued up, and wondering what it is we spent our money on, why we're here for help.

"But you can't judge anyone until you've walked in their shoes."

Margaret has come to the City Mission three times over the past few years for food parcels, and this Christmas, she's hoping to access a Winz special needs grant to help get her through the holidays, as well as a food parcel and a gift for each of her children.

Margaret's story is like many of the thousands of women who line up for hours, general manager Helen Robinson said.

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"Women and children are in the queue here because they need food for their children, not because they are bad people.

"The reason people are queuing is because there is not enough income to cover the cost of food. They can't afford to buy the appropriate quality of food that they and their children need.

"The women who come to the City Mission are budgeters extraordinaire. I'm constantly amazed at their resilience. But they feel a high level of shame at not having enough food."

With only a week to go until Christmas, the City Mission expects to assist at least another 1300 people by Friday, and the need for donations is critical because these funds help not only over Christmas but in the New Year when many people struggle.

Currently the Mission has raised only a third of the $1.3 million Christmas appeal target, and is urging all Aucklanders to donate to help a fellow Kiwi this Christmas.

Donations can be made here or by calling the Mission on 09 303 9200.

The Mission's annual Christmas appeal is running until January 15.

A breakdown

• 80 per cent of the Mission's operating costs are funded by donations.
• The Mission needs your help to provide 8000 children with Christmas presents.
• Last year the Mission distributed almost 13,000 emergency food parcels to individuals and families in need, 4000 of these were distributed in December.