Coast Guard members volunteer at the Maryland Food Bank. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Brazzell, via Wikimedia Commons.

The time has come for Baltimore’s library patrons to once again shed their debt while helping out some hungry Maryland families.

Food for Fines, a partnership between the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Maryland Food Bank, is back from today through Jan. 31. All card-holding Baltimore library users this month can relieve outstanding fines by donating canned or boxed food, with each individual item erasing a dollar in fines.

Of course, those who return their books on time can help out, too.

“We encourage our customers both with and without fines to participate in this citywide effort to give back,” said Pratt Library president and CEO Heidi Daniel in a statement.

There’s no limit on donations. All goods just need to be unexpired, unopened and packaged in metal or paper (so, no glass). Staff at all 23 library branches in the city will take donations at the front desk.

The drive helps the Maryland Food Bank restock its shelves each year. The month-long campaign in 2015 amassed exactly 8,124 pounds of food, enough for more than 6,700 hungry people; the year before, patrons cleared $13,000 in fines while donating more than 8,800 meals collectively.

More than 682,000 people in Maryland suffered from food insecurity in 2015, including a statewide high 23 percent of Baltimoreans, according to Feeding America.

Enoch Pratt’s website says the following items are most needed:

  • Canned proteins, i.e. tuna, salmon, chicken, peanut butter, beans.
  • Canned veggies with low sodium and no salt added.
  • Fruits and juices in light syrup or natural juices, i.e. fruit cocktail, apple sauce, juice boxes.
  • Pasta and rice.
  • Breakfast items like cereal, oatmeal, quick oats, granola bars.
  • Soups and stews with low sodium, i.e. beef stew, chili, chicken noodle, vegetable.
  • Long-lasting dairy items like shelf-stable milk, evaporated milk, infant formula.

Click here to find your library branch and help out.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...