More meals than ever are being served to those in need across the Lower Hunter, but the demand shows no sign of easing.
BaptistCare Hopestreet Wallsend has distributed over 110,000 meals to the region's vulnerable and homeless since August 2012.
"With the high prices of fresh produce, many low to middle income earners either go without or purchase a very limited amount of what is an essential healthy diet requirement. They instead choose a cheaper, less nutritional, food source," Craig Budden, rescued food expert and manager of BaptistCare's Hopestreet centre at Wallsend, said on World Food Day.
"Our teams are seeing first hand that food distress is on the rise, and people are in desperate need of low cost food, a free meal, or emergency relief to ensure they eat."
Working with organisations like OzHarvest and SecondBite, Hopesteet Hunter redistributes about 104 tonnes of reclaimed fruit, vegetables and bread through its centres at Wallsend, Windale and Mayfield every year to people in need.
While there has been an increase in access to donated fruit and vegetables in recent years, there has been a decline in protein and meat donations.
"Almost all, if not all, of our clients are low to middle income earners who are on Centrelink payments. With the combined expense of rentals, utilities and nutritional food, many are going without essential food items. We're seeing parents who can't afford to feed their children, nutrition is a secondary concern to actually being able to access food," Mr Budden said.
A 2018 University of NSW study for the Australian Council for Social Service found that more than three million people, or 13.2 per cent of the population, live below the poverty line in Australia.
The figure includes more than one in six children.
A 2018 Foodbank Hunger Report found 14 per cent of Australians eat less food than they need as they lack the money or other resources to obtain it.
It estimated more than 4 million Australians ran out of food in 2018 and were unable to buy more.
"Thousands of families across the region and further afield are now able to have fruit and veg in their diet through the rescue efforts of organisations like Oz Harvest and SecondBite and the support of local charities like Hopestreet," Mr Budden said.
"We believe that everyone has the right to access food that is affordable and nutritious. We aim to give people and families access to food, and more than that, we provide a safe place to come and ask for help and find deeper hope."