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'Food for Fines:' Texas A&M tackles food hunger and student debt by donating canned goods

Posted: 10:00 AM, Feb 14, 2024
Updated: 2024-02-14 11:00:39-05

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M University is tackling hunger and fines with its Food for Fines program.

This program has been on campus for a decade, impacting the campus community.

Tonya Carter is the Food for Fines coordinator at Texas A&M.

She spearheaded this program that aims to reduce student hunger and library fees on campus.

“If students have a fine, say they have a $10 fine, they can bring in five cans of tuna, and we started 10 years ago,” said Carter. “I went to a library conference as I first learned about it. Since then, we started off really small. We did five days the first time, now we’re up to six weeks.”

Sophia Munoz is a freshman at Texas A&M and works as front desk staff at Evans Library.

She helps students first-hand reduce their debt, one can at a time.

“I think it’s such a cool way to forgive your fines in a way that also helps other people,” said Munoz. “It really embodies that saying I keep hearing everyone say ‘Aggies helping Aggies,’ and it’s just really cool to see that in action.”

Each canned food item is equivalent to $2.

Students can donate up to 50 cans for a maximum of $100 towards their library fines.

“The most food we’ve collected has to be like 2,000 pounds and one year, we actually filled up the 12th Can food pantry,” said Carter.

The 12th Can is a student led food pantry on campus for faculty, students and staff.

Each month, the 12th Can distributes pre-packaged bags of food to those who sign up.

In 2023, the 12th Can served over 3,800 people on campus, and over 500 in November during the holidays.

“As a student worker from my perspective, there’s nothing embarrassing about it,” said Munoz. “It’s actually very helpful to other people who may need it.”

“Anybody who’s a staff, student, faculty, they can bring in food because they have fines,” said Carter. “I had library fines and I took advantage of Food for Fines.”

Donations are still accepted to fill the pantry even if you are not a student, faculty or staff.

The next 12th Can food pantry opening is February 21st and 22nd.

“We take donations because it goes to the 12th Can pantry and it emphasizes Aggies Helping Aggies,” said Carter. “Aggies helping other Aggies, that’s a big thing we push, and it helps staff morale because we say ‘We can help you get rid of these fines if you bring food in’ and they’re like what? So it’s a win-win. It makes us feel good. It makes them feel good.”

Here are the following drop-off library locations for donations: