A FOODBANK has been forced to close after falling into more than £17,000 of debt.

Volunteers at the Tins and Things foodbank, which supports 500 families in Basildon, were forced to pack up the food parcels after a two-month baliff reprieve came to an end yesterday.

The lifeline service, which is run by Choices Family Support, has temporarily set up in the Help for Heroes offices, at the Eastgate Centre, from where it will operate until it can find new premises.

Chairman Francis Barnes- Challinor, who has pledged to continue the service, said the not-for-profit organisation is desperately applying for grants to pay off its debts, but believes the authorities which direct people to the foodbank should support it.

He said: “It is a kick in the seat of the pants – the fact the landlord’s solicitors got in touch on New Year’s Eve and said we haven’t got a stay of execution.

“It has just been a horrendous weekend, it has been terrible for us.

“The volunteers are very disappointed, of course. We have been here nearly a year.

“We didn’t think we would get into this financial state when we took the premises.

We thought people would help us to pay the rent.

“At the moment, we deliver a lot of parcels to certain points such as probation, the council, the churches, or a lot of them used to help us by coming here.

“But they don’t offer any financial help or any volunteers.”

Mr Barnes-Challinor said a recent collection at Waitrose, in Billericay, resulted in 100 bags of donations and volunteers were hoping to be able to hold further events at the supermarket.

The organisation is also hoping to offer courses, including cookery and management skills, in a bid to generate funds for any future rent.

It owes about £11,000 in rent and a further £6,000 in tax to Basildon Council.

The council has offered discretionary relief on the bill, but is unable to offer further help as it is a not-for-profit organisation, rather than a charity.

It has offered small repayment arrangements instead of further actions.

To support the food bank fund, visit choices family.co.uk