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Julianna Kloeppel (staff)'s picture

Food for Fines

Tags: help

We’re considering a program whereby fines are forgiven for bringing in items for the food bank OR for forgiving fines on children’s cards for summer reading accomplishments. Please share what you are doing and if you consider it a success in the comments section.


Julianna Kloeppel (staff)'s picture

My hometown library has done Food for Fines: www.gailborden.info Elgin’s a city outside Chicago of about 100,000.

See 2010 ALA article: http://atyourlibrary.org/libraries/overdue-books-fight-hunger I believe that Gail Borden also ran this program in 2011.

Marion County in SC also did it in 2010: http://www.ilovelibraries.org/articles/libraryshowcase/givingback

If you do a fine forgiveness program, please post and we can get some advice together for your colleagues.

eLearning Specialist
Pamela Klipsch's picture

Our library has offered a "Food for Fines" program for over five years. Once a month, on the final Friday of each month, patrons have the option to "pay" their overdue fines by donating canned food items. Each can of food donated = up to one dollar in fines. We find this is a popular program with our patrons, and the local food pantries appreciate the regular monthly arrival of the donated food. 

Patrons can only use this program to pay down overdue fines; charges for damaged or lost materials are not included, nor are fines on ILL items. We've found we have to specify that the canned food can't be past its sell-by date or have dents, etc. We waive about $10,000 in fines per year with this program, so it doesn't have a major impact on our revenue. Since we started this program we've noticed a lot of local businesses have picked up on the idea of sponsoring food drives. Every month when we send out the press release announcing the next "Food for Fines" date, we include the total food items collected and fines waived year to date. We've had some nice press coverage and this has been good for the library's image in the community.

Pam KlipschJefferson County (MO) Library


Pam Klipsch Director Jefferson County Library High Ridge MO 63049 636-677-8689 pklipsch@jeffcolib.org ALA IFC Chair 2015-2016

Christopher LaRoux's picture

We offer  Food-For-Fines every November for two weeks.  We allow patrons with fines to bring canned goods to the library to clear their fines.  Most patrons are very generous.  We count the items and public works brings them to the local food bank.  We publicize the program's success in our newsletter, director's report, and at town department head meetings.  

Greenville Public Library

Smithfield, RI

Julie Yen's picture

Pending City Council approval, my library has Food For Fines for the months of April and November.  1 non-perishable item = $1 overdue fine waived on our library's items only (we are part of a consortium; patrons must pay the overdue fines on other libraries' materials).  We do not accept expired or dented packages, nor packages with missing labels.  The local food bank is the recipient of the food.  We waive around $10,000 in overdue fines each year.

Julie Yen   

Kathleen Burlette's picture

Gail Borden Public Library has been holding a Food for Fines Drive since 2005. It is an annual event, which has grown from collecting 1,000 cans of food the first year to a whopping 18,638 items last year.

So, if you are planning on doing this annually, I highly recommend that realize that you need: boxes to put the food in. It's a good idea to stock boxes before the food drive. If you can get a local company to donate boxes- that really helps.

You will need space to stage the collection of food until it is picked up.

We worked with our local food pantries and shelters to have them pick up donations on a daily basis, if possible. We tried to keep all the boxed food on pallets or flat beds to move the boxes easily. The city used restitiution workers to move the boxes to one of the large pantries. It really helps to have multiple sites accepting the food, as some are relatively small and have limited space.

We also worked with our local Boy Scout council one year to schedule supervised groups of boys to help count and box the incoming items. Last year we used our Volunteens and regular volunteers, which was great.

Bookmarks basically said - the dates of the food drive, (we ran two weeks last year) 1 can=$1.00 waived in overdue fines. Replacement charges for lost material not included. Please make your donation closely equal to $1.00. Donated items must be non-perishable. Please no pop.Food donations to benefit local food pantries.

We have press releases that go out to our local newspapers, used our Facebook and Twitter accounts to promote the food drive and a large poster and the bookmarks.

Food for Fines Drives are a wonderful way to help our customers clear their accounts, so they can use their library; it is a great community service opportunity; and it's the right thing to do, especially in areas that are hard hit with unemployment and foreclosures. Good luck and best wishes to all of the libraries that work so hard to make a difference in their communties.