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Library Accepting Food Donations in Lieu of Fines

As surprising as it may seem, each year Springfield-Greene County library patrons rack up between 200,000 to 300,000 dollars in overdue fees or other fines. This week the library district is giving patrons a chance to whittle down their fines, while benefiting hungry families in the Ozarks. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann has this report.

Last year was the first year that the Springfield-Greene County Library District officially paired with Ozarks Food Harvest to help re-stock local food banks after the Christmas holiday. The library district forgave as much as $3000 in fines, which in turn raised approximately 3 tons of food. This made it possible to feed as many as 5000 hungry families across the Ozarks.

Kathleen O’Dell is a spokesperson for the library district. She says the “Food for Fines” program allows library patrons to take 50 cents off of their fines for each food item donated. O’Dell adds when fines are over ten dollars, items can no longer be checked out, and that donating food is a great way to solve that problem.

O’Dell says, “83,000 people at any given time owe some form of fine, or fee, on their [library] card. We know that there are about 6,000 children and teenagers who have ten-dollars or more in fines. And we hate to think that a ten-dollar fine stands in the way of a child or teenager checking out a good book.”

Ozarks Food Harvest is the only food bank in Southwest Missouri serving over 300 relief agencies in a 28 county region. O’Dell says that any food items donated to the libraries should be nutritional, non-perishable boxed or canned items, and that glass items cannot be accepted.

“Food for Fines week goes through Saturday, January 29. People can bring in sacks of food, or individual food items, to all of the 10 branches and the Book Mobile during those branch operating hours. And we even have a bin sitting inside of the drive-up windows at several of our branch locations. So, if you don’t want to get out of your car you can just hand the food over and we’ll put it in the bin,” O’Dell said.

For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.