Food For Fines puts a new spin on holiday giving


Nina Heller

Patrons of the San Mateo County Library System can bring in donations of non-perishable items instead of paying any fees they may have.

Nina Heller, Staff Writer

Books and beans: an unlikely combination.

However, with the San Mateo County Library’s newest holiday initiative, Food for Fines, library fines will be waived with the donation of food, excluding fees for lost or damaged items.

Running from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, Food for Fines will allow library patrons to bring nonperishable items to their local library instead of paying any fines they may have.

“I think it’s a great idea to create another option for people to ‘pay’ with food. This way it’s actually helping people instead of just giving the library money. I also think it’s an easier alternative for kids if they don’t have money to pay their fine at the moment. They can just grab a couple cans from their pantry,” said Grace Heck, a junior.

Food can be brought to any of the twelve branches of the library, as well as Burlingame, College of San Mateo, Daly City, Redwood City, San Mateo, and South San Francisco libraries.

“There is a growing need for feeding the hungry in San Mateo County, and this is a wonderful opportunity to provide food for those in need in our community while clearing up fines and resuming greater use of our outstanding library system,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom.

The library is partnering with the Second Harvest Food Bank of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to make sure that all of the donated food will be adequately given out.  

“An astonishing one in four people in Silicon Valley is at risk for hunger. More kids, families, and seniors rely on Second Harvest for food today than ever before in our history. It’s alarming, but local hunger is a problem we all can actually do something about,” said Cat Cvengros, Vice President of Marketing and Development at Second Harvest Food Bank, in a release from Second Harvest this past October.

During the holiday season, many organizations have an uptick in donations by those who wish to help others who are less fortunate. Organizations, such as Toys for Tots and Samaritan House, also are large sources of donations of items such as gifts, but the need for donations of food is equally as important when those who are hungry see others around them indulge in large feasts during the holiday season.

“It’s also super important to donate during the holiday season because we always see people with great dinners and tons of gifts. But we fail to think of the families that struggle to put food on their table, and when you’re already going somewhere like the library, you can just take some food with you and know that you’re helping someone somewhere,” said Heck.