A CHARITY which provides affordable food to people on low incomes could expand into "more affluent" areas.

The Bread and Butter Thing is aiming to reach "one million meals" - but praise for the scheme prompted debate at a Darlington Borough Council meeting on Tuesday night.

Councillor Jonathan Dulston spoke of the team's "ambitious plans" to reach a million meals this year and create two more hubs.

He said the project had delivered almost 25,000 parcels with 300,000kg of food which would otherwise have been thrown away.

The Conservative deputy council leader said: "One of the further hubs that we launch later in the year won't be in traditional wards that you would see.

"It will be in some of our more affluent wards.

"What we do know is that everyone across the town is keen and encouraged by the positive green aspect of this project.

"This cannot be a link to deprivation and a metric of those people who are in need.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jonathan DulstonCllr Jonathan Dulston

"This is food that has been overproduced and has been saved. It would have went into the bin.

"Because people are now thinking more smartly about how they can save money on their food bill and utilise services like this, I don't think you should be hung up about who uses it.

"There's a whole range of different people in different circumstances that use it.

"This is a fantastic project and we will get to a million meals this year and that's a good thing."

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He was responding to Labour group leader Cllr Stephen Harker, who agreed the Bread and Butter Thing was a "fantastic initiative".

"There's no question about it, as an organisation it does tremendous work," he said.

"It is sadly an all too common feature of Britain today. After 12 years of your Government in power, the number of food banks has mushroomed. The number of people facing food poverty rises week after week after week.

"That isn't something to be proud of. It's absolutely shameful.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Stephen HarkerCllr Stephen Harker

"It's shameful in a country as rich as ours that this is happening.

"The gap between the haves and the have-nots ever widens. Worse is yet to come.

"The real story here is not that the Bread and Butter Thing provides a million meals, but that there is a need for so many meals and so many families to be dependant on the Bread and Butter Thing and food banks in Darlington."

Cllr Dulston responded: "You're dead wrong.

"This group does not see the Bread and Butter Thing as an indicator of deprivation.

"We're really proud that this is changing the stigma... with purchasing good-quality food that would've ordinarily been put in the bin.

"I absolutely disagree with your assessment and I'm disappointed that the Labour Party believes that's what this project's all about. Dead wrong."

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Reporting to the council meeting, he said the Bread and Butter Thing had supported over 15,000 families with 4,850 volunteer hours.

He told councillors: "Our amazing team of volunteers have made up and distributed 24,487 food parcels to families.

"Which equates to a staggering 294,000kg of food saved from going in the bin.

"I'm delighted to see the positive impact this is having on communities cross the town, with over 700,000 meals being provided so far.

"This project would not be possible if it wasn't for the people who step forward every week to support our communities."

He later told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "What we're seeing is people who are accessing the Bread and Butter Thing for a whole host of reasons.

"People are conscious it's a really good initiative to focus on recycling good-quality food that would have gone in the bin."

Cllr Harker added: "At the end of the day the Bread and Butter Thing is a food bank.

"It uses food that's disappearing from supermarkets. As a concept it's very clever and has to be commended.

"But the people using it, by and large, are at their wits' end in terms of the financial resources they have.

"They're short of cash. Most of them aren't going there by choice.

"They go there out of necessity. It isn't a lifestyle choice for most people.

"To trumpet it as a burgeoning service is masking the real issue of people in Darlington struggling to feed themselves."

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