The Community Kitchen in Keene is looking for donations of food from their wishlist. The Mason Library has decided to give students a mutually beneficial incentive to give back to the community and pay any outstanding fines they might have accrued throughout the semester.

Access Services Manager at Mason Library Jeff Kazin found Food for Fines at a place where he worked previously. The purpose of the program is simple, to give food donations in exchange for overdue fines on anything that you can rent out from the Mason library.

Emily Perry / Equinox staff

Emily Perry / Equinox staff

The fines usually are pretty small, said Kazin, the maximum fine a student can accrue is ten dollars. Although it is rare, if the library decides to take the fine to the bursar’s office, a hold can be put on their student account.

“One of the benefits of the Food for Fines program goes beyond the food that people who need it get but it’s also a benefit for students because the way we do it is designed to be a ‘good deal’ so to speak,” said Kazin. “Ultimately the way it’s supposed to work is that we will get food from the students for the Community Kitchen and they get a break on their fines.”

Kazin said that even though a bag of ramen and a canned vegetable is usually less than a dollar, students get a full dollar off their fines, which works out to being a money saver and also a charitable act.

It is not just students who are getting involved in fulfilling the Community Kitchen’s wishlist, various departments in the college donated Thanksgiving baskets this year.

Executive Director of the Community Kitchen Phoebe Bray, said, “I think [food for fines] is a great idea. It’s non judgemental… It’s just an awareness raising thing. I don’t think the average person actually realizes how hard it is if you are on a reduced budget… So we just help people stretch their budget so they have enough food.”

While the American Farm Bureau Federation reports a decrease in the amount a Thanksgiving dinner cost families this year, the numbers still add up to about five dollars per person for only one meal. That can be incredibly stressful to families who are lower income, said Bray.

Students looking to go beyond simply donating cans, can visit the Community Kitchen and sign up for service hours.

Coordinator of community service Jessica Gagne Cloutier said, “Anything like that can continue to stock the kitchen in particular is really important.”

She said that this time of year people are more willing to give to groups like the Community Kitchen because of the giving spirit. “Having enough to carry them not just through the holidays, when people maybe are more likely to give, but also through those months when people are not very likely to give is really important.”

Their need has grown, she said, “So it’s really great to be able to find ways for our campus to engage with the community in ways that are really critically important that meet people’s basic needs but also have some reciprocal benefits for our students.”

Alyssa Salerno can be contacted at asalerno@kscequinox.com