Foodstuffs: Portsmouth Library Will Waive Your Fines For Food Pantry Donations

Dec 4, 2014

This is a time of year when food banks and aid groups are looking for ways to encourage people to donate food and money to help the hungry.

The Portsmouth Public Library is offering its patrons a deal: donate food to the Seacoast Family Food Pantry and they’ll forgive some overdue fines.

Christine Friese is the library’s Assistant Director. She talked with All Things Considered about the "Food For Fines" program.

So if I brought in a can of food to the library for the pantry, what kind of waiver am I looking at?

You would be looking at up to $2 off of any overdue fines that are on your record currently, per can.

And what's the rate of fines that the library uses?

Typically ten cents per day.

So this could be a pretty good deal.

We do this up to $10 of forgiveness, so this can be a win-win

How did this all get started?

We noticed it from other libraries around the country - we're not unique to it - but it seemed the time of year. It seemed a very good partnership, and it also helps us get some people in who maybe felt that they couldn't get a handle on some of their fines, felt that they couldn't take things out because of the fines, so we wanted to welcome them back and find ways for them to be able to do that - again, a win-win. They get rid of the fines and they help some other families in the Portsmouth area.

It’s fitting in a way that a library is part of this – I remember when I worked in public libraries that we would get people who sometimes didn’t have permanent homes, might not have regular access to food. They would access the internet through the library - they would sometimes connect to services through the library. It seems to make perfect sense.

It does. We hope so - we're on day two of a week-long drive, and we've had about 15 people take advantage of this. We've had some people who asked if they could just bring in food although they don't have fines. And we said, absolutely, we'll deliver it to the Seacoast Family Food Pantry whether you have fines or not. But if you do, we're happy to forgive them.

And people who want to participate have a little bit of time.

They do - through next Wednesday. The pantry is attached to our City Hall, only a couple blocks from the library. And we'll be taking food over there through the week as we receive it.