Delaware's 'Food for Fines,' program sees significant drop in participation

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Books are shown from a children's library. (Jana Shea for WHYY)

Books are shown from a children's library. (Jana Shea for WHYY)

Every year as a holiday gift, libraries in New Castle County forgive overdue book fines in exchange for a donation of food, for one week only.

For every item of food a tardy library card holder brings in, $1 of overdue fines is forgiven, up to $25. It’s part of the county’s “Food for Fines” amnesty program, which ran last week.

“We’re always looking at opportunities for the residents of New Castle County to give more to those in most need,” County Executive Matt Meyer said. “Of course, [we are] always, always looking for opportunities to get our books back in circulation and get the people of our county reading more, and we believe ‘Food for Fines,’ accomplishes all of those things.”

Now in its third year, 229 library patrons took advantage of the swap, saving $950 in overdue fines. However, this was a significant decrease compared to last year, when 1,100 library card holders participated, and $5,700 in overdue book fines was waived.

Meyer believes last week’s snowfall had something to do with the 79 percent drop in participation.

“We’re going to do a lot more marketing around it next year and make sure people are aware. And stay tuned, we may just surprise you with something. This is the season of giving, but it’s not the only season of giving,” Meyer said.

All of the donations benefit the Food Bank of Delaware.

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