Poverty in the land of milk and honey is reaching critical levels as 336 new desperate families ask the Salvation Army for help each week.

That is the highest level of need the Salvation Army has recorded since the recession in 2011.

Major Pam Waugh travelled to Auckland today to launch the annual Red Shield Appeal on April 30.

"We have not seen poverty increase at this level since the recession. We are heading towards a national crisis which will impact for many years to come.

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"There are a considerable number of people, classed as the working poor, and they are struggling to make ends meet.

"This issue is not going to go away easily. We need to join together to have a much more sustainable approach to driving out poverty."

The Salvation Army is seeing the highest levels of need since the recession in 2011. Photo / Supplied
The Salvation Army is seeing the highest levels of need since the recession in 2011. Photo / Supplied

Around 40 per cent of Kiwis experience food insecurity. One in five New Zealand children lives in poverty and half of them — about 100,000 children — live in severe poverty meaning they lack the basics required to grow up safe, healthy and happy.

Waugh said the increased cost of living and the housing crisis were some of the core reasons behind the mounting need.

In the past calendar year, 60 per cent of families requesting help with basics from the church were new to the organisation - an average of 336 families every week.

"These are people who have never before used our services, and part of the 120,000 New Zealanders we already help every year," Waugh said.

Waugh said poverty was easy to miss but it was in every community

"We haven't seen this level of need since the recession. We are not a third world nation, but we have the highest levels of homelessness in the OECD.

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"The trouble is we're not always confronted with this poverty. Families may not look hungry, but 40 per cent of Kiwi families skip meals or cut back on food, because they can't afford enough for the week," Waugh said.

Increasing the minimum wage was a good start but Waugh wanted to ensure that didn't diminish the family tax credit

"Otherwise we might give in one hand and lose in the other hand."

Waugh urged Kiwis to get behind the work the Salvation Army does and donate. Financial donations were preferred as that sustained their services.

To support The Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal visit its website to donatee or give to a Salvation Army street collector between April 30 and May 6.