Overdue Books? Pay Your Fine With Food | St. Louis Public Radio

Overdue Books? Pay Your Fine With Food

Jul 8, 2014

The St. Louis Public Library has renewed a popular program for forgiving overdue book fines.

Library clerk John Copithorne accepting food in exchange for fine forgiveness at the Schlafly Branch. He said some library users hold off on paying fines until July.
Credit (Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

All through July, adult card holders with late fines can pay with food. Every can or box brought in will knock a dollar off of their fines up to $25. The food goes to the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

The St. Louis Public Library started Food For Fines in 2008. The library's communications coordinator John Koniak said they’ve been amazed at the reaction.

"Of course everyone loves a little amnesty too, but the amount of food people bring in is truly impressive," he said, "What really surprised us was how much food was brought in by people who didn’t owe any fines. They just wanted to help out."

Last year, he said, library users and staff donated enough food to provide 11,000 meals. This year the goal is to surpass that, and Koniak said he thinks they will probably do so.

"This year’s program started last Tuesday and by Thursday we had three branches that had already filled up their barrels and needed to get new ones," Koniak said.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank estimates that approximately 57,000 people rely on its services every week. Last year the foodbank gathered and distributed more than 25 million pounds of food.

The most-needed items include:

  • Canned Meat (ham, tuna, or chicken)
  • Canned Fruit
  • Rice & Beans (dry or canned)
  • Pasta
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Plastic-Bottled Juices, Jellies & Baby Food
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Boxed Complete Meals
  • Hot & Cold Cereal
  • Beef Stew or Ravioli
  • Canned Soup
  • Baby Formula
  • Canned Chili
  • Powdered Milk
  • Granola & Breakfast Bars
  • Crackers
  • Peanut Butter
  • Boxed Fruit Snacks
  • Condiments


  • Soap/Lotion
  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toilet Tissue
  • Feminine Products
  • Diapers
  • Baby Products

No glass items will be accepted.