People in need have been lining up since midnight to get a Christmas food parcel and presents for their children, Auckland's City Mission says.
For the next three weeks, Aucklanders will be lining up outside the Hobson Street drop-in centre for their annual daily Christmas drive.
Today 200 families came to the centre and about 4000 to 5000 are expected overall.
"Lack of food is not just about going hungry, it also causes social exclusion issues and health issues," City Missioner Chris Farrelly said.
It was also about children not having clothes or presents throughout the year.
"It really does mean a lot when a mum or grandmum can choose a present and wrap it up - it starts to bring back more normality into their lives."
Many of those in need were solo mothers who did not have access to nutritious food or affordable housing, Mr Farrelly said.
Last year, 83 percent of those who turned up at Christmas were mothers and grandmothers.
"Sadly, family break-ups are number one," he said.
The mission needed to raise $1.3 million to cover food and services.
The funds would go towards 4000 food parcels, 8000 Christmas presents, a Christmas day lunch for 2000 people and services.
After Christmas was also a tough time for many, he said, and more assistance was needed.
"Having children home is great, but for some families it adds another dimension of need."
Mr Farrelly said cash donations were the best form of help, but non-perishable food and volunteers were always welcomed.