Food for Fines Program Will Take Pantry Donations As Fee Payment

It’s happened to everyone - it’s the end of the semester, you’re cleaning out your room, and you suddenly stumble across a library book you forgot you checked out back during the first week of school. Usually, the only option is to sigh and cough up the money for the overdue fee, but soon there will be a different way to solve the problem.

The FIU Libraries is working with the FIU Student Food Pantry on a new way to pay back fines. From March 19th through March 30th, students with library fines can bring in a donation to the Food Pantry to the Circulation Desk in lieu of paying cash. Each item brought in will count as payment for one fine (UBorrow Fines, ILL fines, and replacement fees are not included). A one-time fee waiver for electronic devices are included in the program as well (maximum fine of $50).

Genevieve Diamond, head of Access Services at the FIU Libraries, is excited about the impact the pilot program can have on the FIU community, and says that “‘Food for Fines’ demonstrates the library's commitment to the FIU community by helping financially challenged students - in that students can pay off overdue fees while helping their fellow students by donating non-perishable food items to the campus pantry, where it is then distributed to those in need.”

There is a Food Pantry location at both the BBC and MMC campuses. The BBC location opened in late 2013 and the MMC location a year later. Run by the Healthy Living Program and the Center for Leadership & Service in the Division of Student Affairs, the offices saw an increase in the number of students who lacked consistent access to food. At the same time, many food pantries were opening at colleges and universities across the country, which helped inspire the program’s creation.

No proof of need is required and students can access the pantry once a week with a valid student ID, taking up to 10 pounds of food each visit. Joanna Garcia, Associate Director at the Center for Leadership & Service, wants to “create a culture where coming to the pantry is something our students can be comfortable with.” As such, the Food Pantry is available to all currently enrolled students, whether they have ongoing need or short term needs stemming from financial emergencies.

Ludovica Virgile, Student Food Pantry Coordinator with the Healthy Living Program at BBC, agrees. “I would like our students to know that there is no stigma in asking for help. The Student Food Pantry was established to serve them without judgement or discrimination.  FIU especially cares about our struggling students; there are many services/programs created just to help them.”

Lack of food is not just a physical struggle, but an scholastic one as well. According to Virgile, “research shows that hunger affects the academic success of students. FIU has launched various initiatives to remove barriers preventing on-time graduation and I feel that FIU’s Student Food Pantry is another initiative that removes the barrier.”

Garcia agrees. “It provides an additional layer of support for students that might be experiencing a lack of available financial resources to purchase food items.”

Items may be brought to the Circulation Desks at either the Green or Hubert Libraries. Items must be labeled, non-perishable, must not be past freshness or expiration date, and must not be in glass jars or dented/rusted cans.

The MMC Food Pantry is located in DM 166 until March 20th, at which point it will move to GC 319 and is open Mondays from 12pm to 3pm, Tuesdays from 2pm to 5:30pm, and Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2pm to 5pm. The BBC Food Pantry is located in WUC 307 and is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm.

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