More than 2600 children from 19 schools sit on KidsCan's waiting list. The highest number in three years.
The charity is giving low-decile schools a boost to the top, with some schools reporting better student results.
Otahuhu Intermediate has had KidsCan support since 2012. In that time they've seen their attendance rise from 80 per cent to over 90 per cent, principal Brent Woods said.
He believed the reason was that they were eliminating all the reasons children might not be able to come to school. And KidsCan was instrumental in this.
"KidsCan has made sure our kids are fed, warm and dry. We're eliminating reasons students had in the past for not being at school.
"If they are here we have a chance at improving their learning."
Decile 1 Otahuhu Intermediate has around 320 students on its role.
Woods said he also had more students making accelerated progress. Those who were at the tail end of academic achievement were being boosted up closer to the expected level.
But Woods wanted to emphasise that the changes couldn't be pinned to one reason. In the last 10 years the school had also engaged more with students' whanau, has nurses three days a week and instigated the KickStart Breakfast. These wraparound services all contributed to increased positive student outcomes, he said.
Otahuhu College has been on the KidsCan waitlist for 18 months. The school has seen great improvements over the last decade with NCEA results soaring and the amount of students leaving with level 3 growing from 25 per cent of enrolled kids in 2008 to 75 per cent last year.
Principal Neil Watson said KidsCan support would help them get even further.
"The better job we do, the better the opportunities and choices they'll have in the next stage of their life.
"It all makes a difference."
KidsCan founder Julie Chapman said some students were missing school as their families couldn't afford back-to-school costs.
"Coming on the back of Christmas families living in hardship, who are already going without the basics, face the added stress of having to stretch what little they do have even further.
"The reality is, the extent of deprivation some families are living in means sometimes it can't be done and more children are turning up to school without food and adequate clothing, while others are even kept home to avoid embarrassment."
KidsCan currently provides food, clothing and basic health items in 700 schools, with 168,000 students having access to its programmes - 2652 children from 19 schools are on the waiting list.
Last year KidsCan witnessed a worrying increase in the need for food assistance, with the number of children it feeds climbing to 30,000 a week.
In 2017, the charity distributed: 4.4 million items of food, 47,000 raincoats, 27,000 pairs of shoes and 171,000 health items.
KidsCan is asking New Zealanders to help them support the 19 schools waiting for help and become monthly donors. A donation of $15 a month enables KidsCan to provide a child living in material hardship with food at school, a raincoat, shoes, socks, and basic health and hygiene items – plasters, tissues and hand sanitiser.
Visit KidsCan to donate.