The Salvation Army says the number of people relying on food parcels in Whangarei has jumped by 90% since the start of this year.
Statistics New Zealand figures show the cost of food has risen 35% in Whangarei in the last decade - the sharpest increase in New Zealand.
The Salvation Army's director in Whangarei says food prices are just one part of the picture.
Pete Mullenger says rent, power and fuel price rises are wrecking the budgets of beneficiaries and low-income earners.
Mr Mullenger says the organisation's budgeting service is seeing many people starting the week with no money once they have paid for essentials.
Demand for the service has also gone up by nearly 90% because Work and Income now requires beneficiaries who have had three food grants to get financial advice, he says.
Despite generous support from the community for its food bank, the Whangarei Salvation Army has been forced to ration food parcels to one per family per month.
Mr Mullenger says it would be a godsend if people could donate even one can of beans a week when they do their shopping.