This holiday season, some cities around the U.S are allowing drivers who have been issued fines for illegal parking or running down a meter can pay them with canned food or other donations. The donation in exchange for fines programs is known as "Food for Fines" and is aimed to “inspire a sense of holiday giving”. All donations are given to food kitchens and homeless shelters.
In Lexington, Kentucky, city officials allow ticketed drivers to reduce parking fines by $15 if they donate 10 cans of food.
In Boston, Massachusetts, ticketed drivers can opt to donate a “non-violent, unwrapped toy of equal or greater value than the ticket fine" in lieu of paying the fine.
In Albany, New York, city officials have introduced an amnesty program which encourages people to donate food and waives late ticket fees on unpaid fines during the holiday season, even if they do not bring along donations when they pay their parking ticket.
Similar programs are under way in Tallahassee and Savannah, Florida. Tallahassee city commissioner Scott Maddox says, “The goal is for the trend to catch on among donors, and not just when a ticket is involved. "We’re hoping that by giving a little bit through this process, it will spur people to give throughout the holiday season and hopefully throughout the year.”
Maddox adds, “Any cost associated with the program is typically outweighed by the goodwill it generates.”
The University of Delaware has introduced a “donation to the homeless” exchange program for parking tickets issued on its campuses.
Some library systems around the country are accepting food in lieu of payment for late fees, with all food going to support local food banks.
Charities and non-profits around the country are reporting that the need for their services this holiday season has grown compared to past years, despite news that the economy is improving and unemployment numbers have dropped. Much of this need is from what they term the “working poor”, families and individuals who have jobs but who do not have enough income to meet the additional financial demands associated with this time of year.