The Public Health Association has supported findings released today showing that a third of Kiwi kids are living in poverty.
Chief Executive Officer Warren Lindberg said the latest annual Child Poverty Monitor report confirmed that poverty was on the rise, and said it was an intergenerational problem.
The report found 305,000 children were living in poverty in 2014, a 17 per cent rise from 2013's 260,000.
After taking into account housing costs, that figure is the highest it has been since 2005 and reverses the trend of the last few years.
"Throwing an extra $25 a week at poor families, as promised in this year’s budget, will simply not be enough and a much more comprehensive approach that looks at how the economy includes and excludes opportunity for people is required," he said.
"No New Zealand family chooses to live in a damp, cold, overcrowded house. Nobody wants to struggle to put three healthy meals on the table every day.
"These families are doing the best they can with the increasingly limited choices they have."
The statistics are also significantly worse compared to decades ago, with 29 per cent of children now in poverty, compared to just 15 per cent in 1984.
The report also found about 14 per cent of children didn't regularly get essentials such as fruit, vegetable or good shoes.
"No matter how you measure poverty, everything points to things being far tougher than they were 30 years ago. That's not right in a country like ours and it's not fair," Children's Commissioner Russell Wills said.
"We need a clear national plan for doing better and we need to show empathy for those whose choices are limited."
The report's authors say it is important to debunk the myth that poverty was being caused by poor choices.
"The vast majority of parents are doing the best they can with the limited resources they have," they said.
But Iain Hines, director of the J R McKenzie Trust - which funds the research - said while public attention and a firm commitment were key to reducing poverty, there would be no overnight solution.
"While we'd love child poverty rates to fall rapidly, it's more likely that it will take some years," he said.
Child and Youth Epidemiology Service director Jean Simpson said poverty was a major public health issue.
"Being in damp, cold houses where there is overcrowding is bad for children's health. Diseases such as rheumatic fever can have serious lifelong implications," she said.
The report defines poverty as households below 60 per cent of the median household income.
The Child Poverty Monitor is a joint project between the Children's Commissioner, the University of Otago and the J R McKenzie Trust.