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Dartford Foodbank responds to media storm after LBC host James O'Brien questions 'happy' photo

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The man behind Dartford Foodbank has hit back at critics, saying the opening of their new venue was a moment that should be celebrated.

Pastor and food bank trustee Stephen Brindley spoke out after pictures of council leaders smiling at an ribbon cutting event sparked anger on social media.

Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite (Con) was photographed alongside the mayor holding a pair of scissors at the new venue in Spital Street, Dartford - and criticism was picked up by LBC radio host James O'Brien, who angrily asked what "are they all so happy about?"

That led to Cllr Kite calling into James O'Brien's show to defend the pictures, and Mr Brindley has since spoken out to say it was "a shame" reaction to the event had become political.

"I think people misunderstood and thought it was a new food bank," he said. "We've been established for ten years and we've moved into a new venue so we can cater for people's needs a lot better, because demands are increasing.

"Jeremy and the council have helped us achieve that, and it's the fact that we're proud to serve the community. People got the wrong end of the stick and it became political, which isn't what it's about.

"We've been serving the community for the last ten years. We were in a church at first and we ended up in a car park, outside the DA1 nightclub in Lowfield Street, during lockdown, so we could still distribute."

Food bank trustee and pastor Stephen Brindley
Food bank trustee and pastor Stephen Brindley

"We needed to find a new venue because demand was increasing and we needed storage. The food bank is nothing new but we've had help."

Pastor Brindley said the move to the new site at Spital Street Methodist Church was a "cause for celebration" for everyone involved.

"They're all volunteers here and they were excited to meet the needs of the community," he added. "Unfortunately there's been a backlash against them, or more so against Jeremy."

He described that the backlash as "a shame" but recognised some felt Conservative economic policy was being blamed for driving up the demand for food banks.

"I get why people are saying that," he said, "but at the end of the day this is a world crisis. This isn't just happening in our country."

Jeremy Kite at the food bank opening (56602100)
Jeremy Kite at the food bank opening (56602100)

"There are lots of other food banks and we're all in this together.

"If it wasn't for the volunteers and people donating, we couldn't fill that demand and we wouldn't exist - people would be in a worse situation.

"It's only going to get worse with everything going up again in October.

"I don't think the council or government can be blamed for it. We can all do things differently and have our different opinions but at the end of the day this is the situation we are facing. We have had some lovely comments as well as the negative, but you're never going to be able to please everybody.

"It's a shame it got to that and we had to take the post down. This is about being able to meet demand and it should be celebrated that we're able to achieve it."

Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite
Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite

Council leader Jeremy Kite has since released a statement, which said: “We have a long and very supportive relationship with Dartford’s food banks and we were delighted to be invited to attend the opening of a new and improved centre in the town. Over the years, but especially during the pandemic, we supported, funded and helped a number of local food banks and after meeting clients, volunteers and supporters on Tuesday, we were asked to cut an opening ribbon supplied by the organisers.

“I count so many of these wonderful people as friends and of course we were very happy to be part of the ceremony surrounded by many hardworking volunteers and organisers who put so much time and love into the facility.

“It’s a dreadful shame that some have sought to sour such an important day for purposes only they can account for, but it won’t diminish our sense of pride and appreciation for everything the brilliant staff at the foodbank do.

“Just for the record, during the visit we initiated some really useful conversations with representatives of a number of churches and charities about how to tackle the impact on local people of rising bills and have agreed to work further with them.”

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