Boston Public Library sponsors “Food for Fines”

BOSTON–In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Boston Public Library spent Nov. 1-15 participating in “Food for Fines,” a program that eliminated outstanding library fees for those who made a non-perishable food donation.

Libraries across the U.S. participate in Food for Fines in order to “donate off” their fines while helping fill the shelves of local food banks. This year, all 27 branches of the BPL participated in the program to help raise goods to donate to local food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters.

“I think it [the program] fits right in with the mission of the library,” said Koren Stembridge, quality services manager of the BPL. “We’re all about answers, access and service to our public. The food drive is just another way that we get to help.”

The BPL agreed to eliminate $2 per donation on any library fines, with all collected food items going to the annual Boston Can Share food drive. From there, Boston Can Share gave the donations to Project Bread and the Greater Boston Food Bank.

“All food donations collected during the Food for Fines program are added to the total amount of food raised during the Boston Can Share food drive,” said Lina Russo, a Boston Can Share worker. “Can Share donations help to stock the Greater Boston Food Bank’s shelves with food throughout the winter months. The Food Bank then distributes food to over 100 food pantries, shelters and free meal programs throughout the city.”

This is the first time that the BPL has participated in Food for Fines, so staff members were uncertain about the estimated amount of food donated. They also weren’t sure about how much money the BPL will lose as a result of the waived fees, but employees were just glad to lend a helping hand and see people come back to the library.

“Given the state of the economy this year we felt it [participating in the program] was particularly important,” Stembridge said. “It’s also about giving people the opportunity to come back to the library again. Fines can become a major barrier for some people and this gives them a way to get those fines removed.”

Results from Food for Fines won’t be determined until early December, but Russo noted that last year an estimated 107,000 pounds of food was collected through Boston Can Share alone. She believes that with the help of the BPL, the Greater Boston Food Bank will be able to provide for many more Bostonians in need.

“Food for Fines is a great way to raise awareness on hunger and to get Boston residents and employees involved in efforts to reduce hunger in the community,” Russo concluded. “I hope Boston Can Share will continue to participate in Food for Fines in the future!”

The Boston Public Library is confident that Food for Fines will be a helpful asset to the Boston Can Share and anticipates annual participation in the program. For more information on the BPL and Boston Can Share, visit www.BPL.org and www.cityofboston.gov/shelters/canshare.

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