Auckland City Mission is struggling to meet the demands of long queues at its three Christmas food parcel handout sites.
There isn't enough food to go around with queues stretching around streets, and the majority of those people are mums and their children.
"We have far more people queuing on the three sites this morning than we can actually assist today and shortly we'll be sending people away and that's pretty heartbreaking," said Auckland City Mission chief executive Chris Farrelly.
"The numbers are actually greater than we can serve today. It's been huge every day but we'll continue up till Christmas and we're doing our best."
Auckland City Mission is handing out Christmas emergency food parcels at three sites across Auckland: Eden Park, the Papakura marae and the Ngā Whare Waatea marae in Mangere.
Those seeking food parcels are often sole parents with children who have been caught in a debt trap trying to meet their family obligations and have either exhausted all other avenues to source food, the Citizens Advice Bureau says.
Before they're given food parcels, staff and volunteers at the sites will check whether they have other opportunities or entitlements to help them in the future.
Work and Income has been working with Auckland City Mission at the sites, Mr Farrelly told RadioLIVE, calling the organisation "absolutely incredible" for backing them during the holiday season.
"All year we have highlighted the growth of food poverty and food security in New Zealand where so many families are earning minimum wage and have debt to loan sharks and that kind of thing."
He said there were queues from before midnight at the three sites on Monday night, adding that it was particularly distressing at the Papakura marae where there were queues well before midnight.
"People now realise that perhaps to get through they have to be there early and that means sleeping overnight."
Tony Kake, chief executive of Papakura marae, says the feeling among the people queuing up at is desperate and overwhelming, and Eden Park chief executive Nick Saunter says it emphasises the importance of the mission.
Auckland City Mission expects to assist up to another 20,000 people at its distribution centres by Friday, and the need for donations is critical because the funds help not only over Christmas but in the New Year when many people continue to struggle.
"We open every single day of the year and we have to find [resources] post-Christmas," said Mr Farrelly. We're still a very generous country and I want to say thank you to people who are assisting us."
So far the mission has raised just $500,000 of the $1.5 million appeal target and is urging all Aucklanders to donate just a few dollars each to help a fellow Aucklander this Christmas.
"I'm ashamed to see the extent of poverty we've got at one level," says Mr Farrelly, "and proud to see the response at another."
Donations can be made here.