More and more Kiwis are becoming distressed about their inability to put good food on the table for their families.
Dr Kristie Carter from Otago University's Public Health department told TV ONE's Breakfast 16% of New Zealanders have reported feeling "food insecure".
Carter says people suffering from food insecurity are those who have used food banks or food grants in the last 12 months, forgone food to pay bills or regularly gone without fresh fruit and vegetables.
"It's a lack of access to safe food ... the study shows that this is a big problem," she said.
Carter is not surprised by the findings with the soaring cost of living.
The price of milk, meat and fresh fruit and vegetables are all on the rise and Carter says this is leaving many families stressed.
"It sort of makes sense that if you can't afford to feed your family you feel stressed," she said.
Carter says people suffering from food stress have feelings of hopelessness, nervousness, and sadness.
Young people, non-European ethnicities, multi family homes and low income families are the most likely to feel insecure about food, Carter said.
She adds that women are affected more, but the feelings are still significant in men.
"That could be around different roles, women are more likely to buy the food for their family or cook the food for their family," she said.
Providing more support for low income families in the way of food grants and easier access to food banks are solutions according to Carter.
She believes the government has a huge part to play.
"We're highlighting inequalities in our population ... we need to improve the lives of our low income population," she said.
The study analysed 19,000 responses to questions about food over an eight year period.
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