By David Knox
For the second straight year, a little friendly neighborhood competition between a couple of local libraries can benefit area food pantries.
The Pinson and Clay public libraries are vying to see which can top the other during the Public Libraries of Jefferson County’s “Food for Fines” drive.
The campaign, in its sixth year, allows patrons to donate canned goods and other nonperishable foods in place of paying their fines. During the month of September, libraries waive $1 in fines for each food item donated, up to $10 per library card. Fines will be waived for late charges only, not for lost or damaged books.
Donations are being accepted at all 40 libraries affiliated with the Jefferson County library cooperative. Last year, they collected 21,896 food items, which was 700 more food items than in 2011.
Libraries will be donating the food to various organizations in the Birmingham area. Like last year, Clay will be giving its to the food pantry at Clay United
Methodist Church and Pinson’s will again go to the food pantry at Solid Rock Church. Pinson topped Clay last year in their competition, collecting 704 items to Clay’s 269.
Suggested food items include baby food, cereals, soup, canned juice, canned fruit, canned vegetables, peanut butter, crackers, rice, pasta, pasta sauce, dried beans, side dishes and snack foods. Items that will not be accepted include dented cans, rusted cans, damaged items, open packages and homemade food. Expiration dates must be visible, and the food must be in date.
Even if you don’t have an overdue item, the libraries welcome items for the food drive. But if you do have overdue fines, this would be a good time to get them wiped out. The PLJC directors recently voted to increase fines on books, magazines and books on CD from 15 cents per day to 25 cents per day. This will be the first fine increase in eight years. The increase applies to all 40 libraries affiliated with the PLJC. Funding cuts by the Jefferson County Commission and the state necessitated the fine increase, which goes into effect Oct. 1.