The Forest Park Public Library kicked off its annual Food for Fines drive with an additional announcement: The week-long event will now happen twice a year.

Alicia Hammond, community engagement manager for the library, said the drive will take place in April as well as September beginning in 2018.

“We’re doing it to coincide with National Library Week,” she said. “We’re hoping people will be interested in not only donating food, but also maybe clearing up their fines.”

The drive collects about 500-600 non-perishable food items and toiletry items annually; each item is worth $1 in late fees. Hammond said those items are delivered to the Forest Park Food pantry at the Howard Mohr Community Center.

Denise Murray, special events coordinator for the community center, said the food pantry serves around 60-80 families each month, though that number surges to around 200 near the holidays and in the summer. Programs like Food for Fines and regular donations from local businesses and community members are what have kept the shelves of the pantry filled for more than 40 years

“This community really has embraced the needs of its neighbors and continues to,” Murray said. 

This is the first year the library has accepted toiletries, but she said there is always a special need for those necessity items.

Murray added that community members can donate to the food pantry year-round, and the community center accepts almost any item, from clothing to furniture and makes sure it finds a good home. Cash donations can also be made. She noted the money goes into a signature account that is only for the food pantry.

Forest Park Public Library will continue to clear fines in exchange for non-perishable items through Sept. 17.