‘Food for Fines’ returns to Whitman County Libraries

Annual food drive program encourages patrons to bring donations; waives fines up to $10

The+Whitman+County+Library+branch+in+Colfax+already+received+several+donations+on+the+first+day+of+the+annual+Food+for+Fines+program%2C+yesterday%2C+Feb.+2%2C+2022+in+Colfax%2C+Washington.+

MIKAYLA FINNERTY

The Whitman County Library branch in Colfax already received several donations on the first day of the annual Food for Fines program, yesterday, Feb. 2, 2022 in Colfax, Washington.

JOSIE GOODRICH, Evergreen reporter

The Whitman County Library District’s annual Food for Fines program is back and better than ever for the entire month of February. 

Food for Fines began Feb. 1 at all 14 library branches located around Whitman County and will end on Monday, Feb. 28. Catalina Flores, public services manager for the Whitman County Library District, said the program allows library patrons to give back to their community while also having their outstanding fines waived.

Patrons can bring in nonperishable foods, toiletry items and paper goods to have up to $10 of their fines forgiven. Each item equates to $1 in fines. Community members without any fines are still encouraged to donate, and their donation will go towards another’s outstanding fees. 

Flores said that each library branch will give the donations to their local food bank, which will then be distributed throughout the community to those in need.

“We encourage everyone to participate, not just those with outstanding fees,” Flores said. “All ages can participate, not just adults, and anyone with any questions can call any of our librarians in any of our 14 branches.”

Food for Fines started in 1999, making this the program’s 24th year in Whitman County.

Flores said that it was originally held the first two weeks of December, and then in 2004 it was moved to the entire month of February. 

They decided to move the program to February because local food banks were noticing that patrons and members of the community were having higher heating bills in February, due to extreme winter weather conditions. 

Flores said holding the program for the entirety of February allows more time for people to donate. It also makes the cause more valuable, since it comes during a time when many are struggling financially. 

Since Flores took over the program in 2015, she said more than 100 people participate each year across all 14 branches— and their donations amount to much more than all outstanding fines across the district. 

“I would say the majority of the donations are higher than the waiving portion,” Flores said. “[In] 2017, we had fines weigh close to $600 and our patrons donated close to $800 worth of food.” 

The pandemic drastically cut the number of donors in 2020 and 2021. Flores said people are able to come into the facilities this year, which she hopes will result in more donations than last year’s curbside drop-off. 

“It’s a very popular program that I don’t see us going away from,” Flores said. “Partnership with our local food banks, giving back to the community, it’s a great incentive for patrons to waive fees and just to donate for a good cause as well.”