Annual Food for Fines extended to three weeks

University librarian would like to see more students donate

Patricia Chalmers says email notifications of late books are part of the reason donations have been lower in recent years. Photo: Keili Bartlett

Would you rather pay fines or pay for someone’s next meal? Monday was the first day of the annual food bank drive at university libraries in Nova Scotia, giving students just that option.

While Food for Fines isn’t a new concept, this year’s campaign will be longer than ever before. At three weeks instead of the original nine days, university students in Nova Scotia can donate to Feed Nova Scotia instead of paying library fines from Feb. 9 to March 1.

Patricia Chalmers, the assistant librarian in charge of access at the University of King’s College library, says the food drive was extended to accommodate the different study break schedules of universities across the province.

“We wouldn’t want to have any one university sort of disadvantaged by having one week. We all have one reading week during that time, but we still have two other active weeks. We also found that it was a very popular program and we wanted to enable as many students as we could to participate.”

Chalmers said she’d like to see more students participate in Food for Fines this year. “Last year was better than the year before,” Chalmers said, because Novanet extended the food drive and raised the maximum fines waived per person to $50 from $20.


Each non-perishable food item donated, canned or otherwise, equals $2 in fines. Students at Nova Scotia Community College  and Dal are among the top donors in the last few years. Acadia University will be joining the food drive this year.

“For a few students who really did have a lot of fines - and very few students actually get that much - for some it really did make a difference,” Chalmers said.

“Our reason for being isn’t here to collect fines. I mean, we want students to be responsible and return books on time or renew them, but we do have a provision to charge fines. You know, we don’t like students to reach that level of debt.”

University libraries in Nova Scotia will collect donations of food or cash on behalf of Feed Nova Scotia for three weeks this year. Photo: Keili Bartlett

A few years ago, Novanet libraries upgraded their system to send email reminders to students four days before their books are due.

Chalmers said because of the email notifications, participation rates in Food for Fines have dropped “because students aren’t accruing fines as badly as they used to.”

Just because fines have dropped, doesn’t mean donations have to as well. “We encourage people just to bring in food as well, it doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to their fines. We’re happy to accept donations of food or cash, regardless.”

Cash donations can be made in lieu of fees as well, students just need to ask library staff. Chalmers said donations aren’t automatic when students pay fees during this time, because not all students wish to donate to the cause.

No donations had been made when UNews spoke to Chalmers on the first day of the food drive, “but it’s still early,” she said.