Library fine amnesty program collects 1,173 items for food pantry

The shelves were completely stocked for the first time in many years at the Cathedral Emergency Services food pantry in downtown Syracuse after students donated 1,173 items during this semester’s Food for Fines program. 

For Peter Parillo, director of the food pantry, receiving that much food was incredible. 

‘Without food stamps and the pantries, people would starve in this country,’ he said. 

The food pantry received the food items Friday from the Food for Fines program. The program ran the previous day from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the libraries of Syracuse University and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. For each nonperishable food item donated by an individual, his or her overdue library book fees were reduced by $1. 

The 1,173 food items collected are a substantial increase from last semester’s drive, said Pamela McLaughlin, director of communications and external relations at E.S. Bird Library. Last semester had the worst turnout of the Food for Fines program when 288 items were collected, according to an article published in The Daily Orange on Dec. 1, 2010. The program collected more than 1,100 donations the year before, according to the article.

McLaughlin did not have the exact number of overdue library fines that were forgiven this semester because not everyone donates for fine amnesty reasons, she said. 

‘Sometimes folks bring in more than the amount of fines they owe and just donate the remainder,’ she said.

Participating libraries included Bird, the Science and Technology Library, the Geology Library, Barclay Law Library, the Architecture Reading Room, the Martin Luther King Jr.  Library and ESF’s Moon Library.

The Cathedral Emergency Services food pantry sees approximately 600 families every month and passes out about 600 grocery bags per month as well, said Parillo, director of the pantry. Each bag contains between $35 to $40 worth of food.

‘It has been proven that food stamps last 17.5 days in a month,’ Parillo said. ‘Recipients of food stamps could not survive alone on food stamps.’ 

Parillo said he temporarily forgot about the arrangement with the university to pick up the food items on Friday. He said he told his volunteers Thursday that the shelves looked well stocked and that he was completely shocked when he saw how much food was donated from Food for Fines.

Said Parillo: ‘I called in extra volunteers on Friday to help stock the shelves.’


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