Food for Fines Program is back for seconds

Starting April 2, the Santa Clara County Library District—which includes Morgan Hill and Gilroy—is holding a second round of its Food for Fines program, in which patrons can waive up to $100 in fines and fees in exchange for a non-perishable food donation of any amount.

In its initial monthlong offering in 2018, the equivalent of nearly 30,000 meals were collected for the food-insecure in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

“Food for Fines was successful last year in welcoming our patrons back to the library and generating much-needed food for our neighbors,” said County Librarian Nancy Howe. “We hope to see an even greater level of participation among library users and continued generosity from all of our communities.”

Last year’s program saw thousands of library patrons take part, with nearly $150,000 in fines and fees waived. Over 5,300 individuals were able to zero out their account balances thanks to Food for Fines.

Many community members took part in the program even though they did not have any outstanding fees or fines; they just wanted to do their part to help those in need. There were even patrons who paid their fines and made a food donation, according to SCCLD.

“Having an outstanding fine or fee can discourage patrons from fully utilizing their local library,” said County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, the Library Joint Powers Authority Board chairman. “Food for Fines allows individuals to make good with the library in a cost-friendly manner, while also helping others in the community who require food assistance.”

Food for Fines will be available at each of SCCLD’s seven community libraries and one branch library, as well as through its bookmobile. Patrons should bring their food donations to the accounts desk during normal business hours to have up to $100 in fines and fees waived. In the case of lost or expired library cards, or to sign up for a free library card, participants should bring any valid form of photo identification in order to take part. A list of most needed and allowable food donations can be found at sccl.org/foodforfines.

All the food collected through Food for Fines will go to Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, which supports over 250,000 county residents monthly, half of them children or seniors. With an estimated 83.6 million meals missed every year among particularly vulnerable county households, there is a need to take action. This program allows patrons to easily return to good standing while at the same time doing something meaningful for those in need, according to SCCLD.

“We were delighted with the huge response to SCCLD’s first Food for Fines amnesty program last year and are thrilled to see the momentum continue again this year,” said Leslie Bacho, CEO of Second Harvest. “Food for Fines is a great way for the community to step up and help the one in four people in Silicon Valley who are struggling with hunger.”

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