‘Food for Fines’ feeds families on the Palouse

Library program helps patrons waive fees, donations fill need gap



Whitman County staff members Sarah Phelan, Sheri Miller, Nichole Kopp, James Morasch, and Kathy Buchholtz pose with donations from the food for fines food drive.


It’s February, which means that love is in the air. Here on the Palouse, Whitman County Library has begun to send love to families with the annual Food for Fines drive.

Catalina Flores organizes the Food for Fines drive held every February. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the organization, Flores said.

Residents can donate at any of the Whitman County library branches. Each library will have a donation spot where non-perishable items such as canned goods, peanut butter, mac n’ cheese, dry pasta and other items can be donated. Toiletries are also accepted.

A person can donate in exchange for a waived library fee of up to $10. No more than $10 will be waived, Flores said. However, people don’t need a fine to donate.

“We welcome everyone to donate,” Flores said. “It’s a good cause, and it goes back to the community.”

Items that are donated in the libraries will be sent to local food banks to help local families, rather than being pooled all in one place. Last year alone brought in more than $700 in food, Flores said.

“There were about 96 participants [in 2019],” Flores said. “The year before that, there were 30.”

Paige Collins has been the executive director at the Council on Aging & Human Services in Colfax for about five years. Originally she worked in Seattle at a large food bank, and recognizes the importance of anticipating the needs of families. 

“[Food for Fines] comes at a time when no one else is doing food drives,” Collins said. “It is perfect timing. It touches a lot of families.”

Food for Fines began Feb. 1, through Feb. 29 at all 14 library branches, which are: Albion, Colfax, Colton, Endicott, Farmington, Garfield, LaCrosse, Malden, Oakesdale, Palouse, Rosalia, St. John, Tekoa and Uniontown.

Editor’s note: This story was edited to correct a statement about which library branches are participating in food for fines.