Today's poverty levels are deemed worse than in 2008, during a recession brought on by the global financial crisis, with 100,000 Kiwi children living in severe poverty.
New figures from the Salvation Army show one in five children is going without the basics, such as school shoes, lunch every day and a coat.
Its head of welfare services Major Pam Waugh told NZH Focus that this is a "national crisis".
Last year, the Salvation Army saw 336 new families every week. That's on top of the 120,000 people it already looks after each year.
Waugh says the rise in rents, petrol prices and basic food costs are hitting those families the hardest.
Waugh compares today's demand to what it was like during the recession - but worse.
"What we're seeing now is that we can't get that back to pre-recession level, we got stable, now we're sitting at around 63,000 food parcels per year. And that's gone up again," she says.
She says there are also misconceptions about people living in poverty – that they are all on benefits, have large families and are often solo parents - which are incorrect.
"We don't see the people skipping meals to make ends meet from week to week. We don't see the families living on say just noodles so that they can make ends meet for the week. And those are the things people don't understand."
Waugh says the Government ought to do more.
"What we have to see is more input into what the effect of the last 10 years or so… how we're going to bring around education, how we're going to help people relieve some of that debt they've got," she says.
"Importantly I see is how we're going to build equality for people living in New Zealand. So bring everybody on a more level playing field and shift the housing market so we can do that."
Kiwis are being urged to support the Salvation Army in its bid to help end poverty by donating to its Red Shield Appeal which begins next week.
To support The Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal:
- Visit salvationarmy.org.nz
- Give to a Salvation Army street collector between May 1-7.