New figures from New Brunswick's two largest cities suggest a significant increase in poverty.
The child poverty rate in one part of Moncton has been found to be as high as 39 per cent.
And a soup kitchen in Saint John says it served a record high number of meals last month.
"The information is quite alarming," said Craig Storey, a member of Moncton's Poverty and Social Inclusion Committee.
Storey looked at a recent study done by the city as well as data from Statistics Canada.
The child poverty rate for Moncton as a whole is 28 per cent, he said.
That's higher than the provincial average of 22 per cent.
And it's a great deal above the national average of 17 per cent.
The situation is most dire in Ward 4, which is between Mountain Road and McLaughlin Road, north of Morton Avenue.
Storey said the committee looked at statistics from 2009-2015 and the child poverty rates in Moncton went up by 8 to 10 per cent over those seven years.
A more recent trend can be seen in figures from Saint John's Romero House.
It reported serving "another record high" number of meals yesterday — 454.
The organization said it served more meals during the month of September — 10,625 — than in any other month in its more than 38 years of service.
The average daily number of meals served has climbed 35 per cent since April and almost 60 per cent from last year.
"By all accounts, it looks like we will be hunkering down for a long hard winter," reads a post on its Facebook page.
Besides food insecurity, the pandemic has also given rise to other problems for people living in poverty, said Mary O'Donnell, executive director of Moncton Headstart.
Fear, isolation and hopelessness have taken a severe toll on mental health, she said.
Headstart has been making phone calls and delivering care packages, said O'Donnell, to try to let people know someone is there for them.
A number of local organizations are doing good work to fight poverty, she said, speculating that perhaps the child poverty rates would be even higher without them.
But O'Donnell acknowledged that very often they lack resources.
"They probably have the hearts and they have the desire and they have the great ideas and know how to do it."
"But they just don't have the manpower. They just don't have the funds."
She gave the example of Headstart's Toyland program.
It takes 200 volunteers, she said, who accompany parents through a gymnasium filled with donated toys and other gifts, to choose Christmas presents for their children.
Headstart's main focus is on education, literacy and setting life goals.
"Obviously we're only touching the tip of the iceberg," O'Donnell said.
Storey is new to the anti-poverty fight.
Coming from a business background, as chief commercial officer with the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, he sees the costs of poverty in many areas, such as support for homelessness, mental illness and other health problems.
It's also a drag on business productivity and GDP, Storey said.
"I think we need to shake ourselves off a little and look at it with fresher eyes and fresher energy."
His group is trying to come up with some ideas to present to city council.
"If we all lean in," said Storey, "I think we'll be a much stronger society."