Food for Fines battles food insecurity, parking tickets

Natalie Weiland

In partnership with Rams against Hunger, Parking and Transportation Services is offering to minimize parking citations for donations to Rams Against Hunger. (Gregory James | The Collegian)

Food for Fines is making it easy to pay a parking ticket and support a good cause.

Through Dec. 18, Rams Against Hunger has teamed up with Colorado State University’s Parking and Transportation Services to create a program that allows students who have been issued a parking citation to reduce their fee in exchange for a donation to the fight against food insecurity. 

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According to SOURCE, every $10 donation to Rams Against Hunger will reduce a student’s fine by $20. Only one deduction is allowed per citation, and those already transferred to the University’s Accounts Receivable Operations are not eligible, wrote Rani Weirich, customer service manager for Parking and Transportation Services, in an email to The Collegian.

“This helps customers by reducing a citation, and contributions fund the meal swipe program, providing nutritious meals at one of CSU’s dining centers for qualifying undergraduate students,” Weirich wrote

Food for Fines has been in place since 1998, Weirich wrote. Previously, the program collected canned goods in exchange for a $3 citation fee reduction and donated those foods to the Food Bank for Larimer County. 

By reducing the stigma around food insecurity and meeting student, staff and faculty needs in a way that affirms dignity, we hope to live out the creed that Rams really do take care of Rams.” -Michael Buttram, Rams Against Hunger coordinator

“I met with them probably three years ago,” said Jen Johnson, interim director of the Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement Office, which houses Rams Against Hunger. “They had been doing a Food for Fines program that gave food to the Food Bank (for) Larimer County. After we had things up and running for Rams Against Hunger, they asked if they could direct the money to us. I said yes, met with them and we talked things through.” 

Following a rework of the Parking and Transportation Services’ computer system to accommodate the new program, funding was then directed to the Rams Against Hunger meal swipe program, which allows students to apply for 60 meal swipes that can be used at any CSU dining hall, and Food for Fines was up and running, Johnson explained. 

“It looks like since we started recording these ‘gifts,’ there has been a total of  $8,272 contributed,” wrote Michael Buttram, the Rams Against Hunger coordinator, in an email. “The cost per student (for one semester of swipes) has averaged around $500, so that’s 16 students who have benefitted from this initiative.”

According to the Food for Fines webpage, those who wish to participate must first make a contribution online — a minimum of $10 is required, but students may contribute as much as they wish — and verify that it has been processed. Once this is done, students should see their fee reduced by $20 and can proceed to pay the remaining amount with a credit card. It should be noted that cash contributions are not accepted. 

Throughout the year, Rams Against Hunger offers various services to combat food insecurity among CSU students, such as “a food pantry, a meal-swipe program, pocket pantries and virtual assistance with navigating federal aid eligibility,” Buttram wrote. 

“Our hope in providing these services is to ensure that basic needs need not be overlooked at the expense of a degree,” he said. “By reducing the stigma around food insecurity and meeting student, staff and faculty needs in a way that affirms dignity, we hope to live out the creed that Rams really do take care of Rams.”

Natalie Weiland can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @natgweiland

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