Published: 16:02, 09 October 2018
| Updated: 16:39, 09 October 2018
A vicar burst into tears after bags full of donated harvest festival produce were swiped from a church's altar.
Rev Patricia Fogden, the vicar of St Peter and St Paul, Appledore, said there had been a "joyous" harvest festival on Sunday, when families with young children were among the congregation that filled the 13th century church near Tenterden.
But yesterday Rev Fogden discovered that the donations from her congregation had been taken in a cruel theft.
She said: "We have never had so much donated for the harvest festival as this year and it was all going to be given to Tenterden foodbank.
"Everybody at the church is so upset and we just can't take it in.
"Harvest festival food always goes to the needy or elderly and everyone knows that."
Bags full of cereals, tea, coffee, rice, pasta and other staples surrounded the base of altar, while the packets and tins were also lined up on the altar itself.
But when Rev Fogden came to collect the produce from the church yesterday afternoon to take to the foodbank she discovered most of it gone and just a sprinkling of items left behind.
"I just burst into tears when I saw the food had been taken," she said.
"A few things had been left on the altar but I think it's probably because the thieves couldn't fit it in the plastic bags."
The incident followed continual pilfering from the church's Produce in the Porch, where an honesty box had been left out for people to pay for the jam, pickles and homebaking on offer.
All proceeds were meant to go towards the church.
Rev Fogden estimates that around £200 had been lost from the stall since it was set up in August until it was removed a few weeks ago.
The vicar said the last thing she wanted to do was to keep the church locked as it should be open for all those who need it.
She has launched an appeal in a bid to replace the stolen harvest festival produce destined for the foodbank.
Rev Fogden is asking anyone who can donate food to call her on 01233 758250 or to deliver it to: The Vicarage, Old Way, Appledore, TN26 2DB.
She added: "We had such a good response to our harvest festival appeal this year and people had been extra generous with donations.
"I just don't understand how anyone could stoop so low to steal it."
The theft has been reported to police, who have been approached for a comment.