It’s that time of year we’ve all been waiting for. Whitman County Library’s annual Food for Fines drive begins Feb. 1 and continues through Feb. 27 at all 14 WCL branch locations. This highly successful program allows library patrons to bring in cans or boxes of nonperishable food, household paper products and toiletry items to waive as much as $10 in outstanding library fines.

Donations will be accepted at all WCL locations during regular open hours. Each unopened, unexpired item will equate to $1 forgiven in library fines. All collected items will be given to the food bank serving the community where they were collected. During the month of February, many food bank clients receive large heating bills and it’s wonderful that the library’s food drive allows local agencies to put something extra in their grocery box.

After looking back through our library history scrapbooks, we discovered that Whitman County Library originally began the Food for Fines drive back in 1999 and it was held the first two weeks of December. In 2004, the library moved the drive from two weeks in December to a month-long event in February to assist local pantries in providing food to residents struggling to feed their families due to high winter heating bills. In 2015, at the request of local food pantries, the library added household paper products and toiletry items to the list of acceptable items for donation.

During the 23 years that we’ve hosted this very popular event, the library has collected more than $17,000 worth of nonperishable food, household paper products and toiletry items — all thanks to library supporters like you.

Every year, participants want to know what is acceptable to donate and what is not. Local food pantries are in need of the following items:

Nonperishable protein: Pantries can always use canned meats like tuna or chicken. Nut butters like peanut or almond are great options. Beans are a versatile form of protein, too.

Canned food and packaged grain: The go-to for food pantries includes fruit, vegetables, pasta sauce, rice, pasta, quinoa, lentils, cereal and oatmeal (just to name a few).

Meals in a can or box: We all have those days where we just don’t want to cook or put a lot of thought into how the ingredients in the fridge can combine into a decent meal. Things like soup, stew, chili or mac-and-cheese boxes that contain a pre-made cheese sauce are great options. These are quick and easy to make while still feeling like a complete meal.

Cooking essentials: It’s hard to make a meal that appeals to the taste buds without a little oil and spices. Consider donating healthy oils like olive oil which is a kitchen staple. Spices like garlic powder, salt, pepper and onion powder can really transform a meal from bland and basic to terrific and tasty.

Household staples: Toilet paper, toothpaste, paper towels, soap, shampoo and conditioner and deodorant are all needed. Giving personal hygiene items can really help people’s dollars go further.

As for unacceptable items, library staff cannot accept perishable or past dated foods. Items must be in their original package and not open or used.

Don’t have an overdue library account? Whitman County Library encourages the public to make contributions even if they don’t have fines or a library account. The items will be used to pay it forward and forgive another person’s fines before being donated to local food banks. Fines will not be forgiven for accounts that have been sent to a collection agency.

Whether you have some fines to clear off your account or just want to support your neighbors and our local food pantries, join us for our Food for Fines drive and drop off your donations at your nearest library branch throughout the month of February.

Catalina Flores is the public services manager for Whitman County Library.

Recommended for you