Hawke's Bay's "Fruit Bowl" is becoming increasingly out of reach due to a national increase in fresh produce prices.
According to Stats NZ, overall food prices rose 1.4 per cent in June from the previous month, an increase that was accelerated by a 9.4 per cent rise in the price of fresh fruit and vegetables.
This rise in the price of vegetables is the biggest increase in more than four years.
Hastings-based Budget First manager Kristal Leach said shoppers struggling to afford fresh produce to "buy in season fruit and vegetables, then you're going to get the lowest cost, as opposed to imported fruit and vegetables".
Leach often sees an increase in clients seeking assistance at this time of year due to the end of seasonal work in May, which doesn't kick off again until around September.
There is an irony, she acknowledges, that those providing the produce for supermarket shelves through seasonal labour do not reap the fruits of their own harvest.
She explains that despite increases in benefits and the minimum wage, "inflation in rent and produce prices has meant that many people are still in the same position".
The food bank that Budget First operates on behalf of the Hastings Food Bank Trust supports those in need with non-perishable food items.
Standardised breakfast, lunch and dinner packages are organised by volunteers, complete with items like Weet-Bix, canned spaghetti, sausages and pasta.
For fresh fruit and vegetables, the organisation redirects clients to non-profit organisation Nourished for Nil, who despite the increase in produce prices are not feeling a dearth of supplies.
Founder of Nourished for Nil Christina McBeth explained that "we are in a unique situation due to Covid, with less export meaning greater local produce availability, which organisations like ourselves get the surplus of".
McBeth hasn't noticed any change in supply due to inflated produce prices, with "the flow of people and food into the organisation feeling pretty unchanged".
McBeth speculates that "maybe what we are getting is a result of inflation - no one can afford the fruit and vegetables at the supermarket, so they don't get sold and then the produce gets passed back on to organisations like us".
Through testimonials of people using the service, McBeth has realised the number of people who do not otherwise have access to fresh fruit and vegetables and therefore the importance of support services to continue to nourish the Fruit Bowl region.
Stats NZ consumer prices manager Matthew Stansfield said: "Covid-19 restrictions on international labour has inflated prices alongside other economic pressures such as the higher freight cost of imported vegetables.
"Seasonality causes this increase in price but there is also an underlying economic pressure alongside this."
Winter is typically a time of seasonal increase in the price of fresh produce; however, this recent hike in price covers more vegetable varieties than usual.
Stansfield identified tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli and capsicums as the main examples.
"Tomatoes and cucumbers were up 52 per cent for the month of June and broccoli was up 35 per cent."
Analysis by the Herald based on Inland Revenue household spending figures and extrapolated using inflation data over the past two years also shows many Kiwis are having to spend more compared with pre-Covid times.
Rising housing, petrol, food and clothing costs have pushed up the cost of living for an average family in Auckland by more than $100 a week.