Time running out on Food for Fines at MRRL

Julie Smith/News Tribune photo: Allyson Nichols carries a bag of canned food items to a collection box where donations are accumulating for the Missouri River Regional Library's Food for Fines promotion. If a patron owes a fine for overdue materials, they can pay that fine with food which will be donated to the Samaritan Center. Nichols is the inter-library loan and MOBIUS coordinator. Both MRRL branches are holding Food for Fines from September 24-30 and food collected in Jefferson City will go to Samaritan Center and food collected at the Osage County branch will go to Good Shepherd Food Pantry in Linn.

A canned good can shave some money off your overdue library book fine.

Missouri River Regional Library is running its Food for Fines promotion through Saturday. Donors can take $1 off their library fines for each canned good they give to the library. Food donated in Cole County will go to the Samaritan Center, while donations from Osage County will go to Good Shepherd Food Pantry.

MRRL hosts the canned food drive annually in September, which is considered Hunger Action Month. Natalie Newville, the library's assistant director of marketing and development, said the drive benefits either the Samaritan Center or Salvation Army, depending on the year.

"It's something we've been doing for a long time and it's just a great way for us to partner with different organizations in the community but then also remove barriers for people if they have fines and want to get rid of them," she said.

Ben DeFeo, operations manager for the Samaritan Center, said the food drive helps provide food while also keeping the community's food insecurity issues top of mind before the holidays. The Samaritan Center serves an average of 1,300 families each month, DeFeo said, but food needs tend to spike near the end of the year.

The food pantry is building up supplies for the Thanksgiving holiday season, DeFeo said. It's in need of chicken broth, corn muffin mix, pumpkin pie filling, canned fruit, peanut butter and canned lunch food, like soups and pastas.

"Anything will be a great surprise," DeFeo said.

Newville said the library doesn't generate a donation goal, but the offer usually attracts its regular patrons and some that haven't used the library's services recently because of outstanding fines.

"We have a lot of people that come in and utilize it," she said. "We all know that there are people who are in need of food in our community so it's an easy way to maybe help with that."

In addition to the food drive, MRRL is offering free library card replacements through the end of September for National Library Card Sign Up Month.