The Government believes 500,000 more Kiwis may become more vulnerable to food insecurity because of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a Cabinet document obtained by 1 NEWS.
Before the current pandemic, it was thought 500,000 New Zealanders already struggled to afford food.
The Auckland City Mission has been giving out 1200 food parcels a week during Alert Level 3.
Helen Robinson, the general manager of health and social services at Auckland City Mission, said they were facing a “truly unprecedented level of demand”.
“People just don’t have enough money for food,” she said.
The Wellington City Mission is also seeing increased demand because of Covid-19-related job losses and people working less hours.
“We're seeing people come that we haven't seen before,” Wellington City Missioner Murray Edridge said.
“We're seeing people come more often and we're seeing people who wouldn't traditionally come to food banks.”
Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage, who gave the advice to Cabinet, said the Government was taking action.
The Ministry of Social Development is now issuing more than 4000 emergency food grants a day.
“We know that there's increasing demand on food banks because of people losing their jobs as a result of Covid," she said.
Ms Sage said the Government was also aware of growing numbers of people vulnerable to food insecurity, as well as children and others going hungry.
“[The] Government has put in significant funding with Covid recovery, with the Budget, to assisting food rescue organisations.”
Food poverty researcher Dr Rebekah Graham said the rise in demand was more than expected. But, she said it had been a growing problem for some time.
“Those are big numbers. What that tells me is we've ignored poverty for far too long.”
A food insecurity report published by the Ministry of Health in June last year found almost one in five children lived in severely to moderately food-insecure households.