New Zealanders moved by a solo mother's story of hardship have offered money, gifts and even a holiday.

The Herald is this week looking at families who are seeking help from children's charity Variety, which is facing unprecedented demand for basic items this winter.

Today, teacher and mother-of-two Samantha – who preferred not to provide her surname – spoke about having just $1.68 to live on each fortnight once her bills and debts were paid.

That often meant eating $1 loaves of bread for dinner to ensure she could cover healthy meals and medical bills for her children, aged 4 and 6.

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"You never dreamed to be in this position," Samantha said.

"I know there's a lot of people worse off than us and I'm really lucky to have a roof over our head and to provide food. But there's a lot of Kiwis struggling."

Variety said it had received a strong response from Kiwis who had read about Samantha's story. The donations would be used to assist other families with essential items for winter.

So far, 24 more children on its waiting list had been sponsored and 75 families had signed up to make donations. There were 400 children on the waiting list as of last week.

The Herald also received offers of gifts, donations and a five-day holiday at Piha camping ground. Samantha had said she dreamed of having the time and money to take her family to the beach.

Variety, which is appealing for donations from outside its existing donor base for the first time, said it was heartened by the generosity shown by Kiwi families.

Though it would love to pass on all of the gifts it did not have the resources to handle physical items and could not give out families' personal details for privacy reasons. It recommended making a donation to other families via its website.

WINTER STRUGGLE

Variety is not alone in noticing increased demand from New Zealand families for help with clothing, power bills and heating.

A survey by the Salvation Army released today showed that half of New Zealanders were going without heating because of the cost. One in 10 were using the oven to heat their home.

The survey – which was not limited to Salvation Army clients – also said 37 per cent of Kiwis were skipping meals because they could not afford them and 45 per cent were avoiding the doctor when sick.

National Practice Manager Jono Bell said the figures appeared to be extraordinary, but were consistent with what the organisation was witnessing on the front line.