Lexington’s Food for Fines back in session

By Dan Bodden

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Lexington Parking Authority is again accepting canned food donations in lieu of payment for parking violations through its “Food for Fines” food drive.

The initiative will run from Nov. 16 through Dec. 18, and the food donations will be given to God’s Pantry Food Bank to distribute to its four Lexington locations. According to LPA Executive Director Gary Means, God’s Pantry was chosen because it is one of the most well-known in the area.

“They have a great track record of helping our community and other parts of the state with the different branches they have,” Means said. “So we just felt like if we were going to do that, we wanted it to be an organization with good name recognition and a good track record that people would trust.”

Last year LPA started the event by allowing customers to donate 10 cans to pay off a parking meter citation. This year it has expanded the initiative to all parking citations issued by LexPark or the Lexington Police Department, including past due citations. Every 10 cans will take $15 off of the price of the ticket.

“We are excited because it was so successful last year and so well received and really talked about around the community,” God’s Pantry Development Director Rebecca Wallace said. “And we really need that food which is the other reason that we’re really excited about this, because that food is so important to providing a variety of choices to the families who visit our Fayette County pantries.”

Last year’s Food for Fines campaign brought in more than 6,200 cans of food from more than 600 parking meter citations. God’s Pantry received the equivalent of an estimated $11,000 in food donations from $14,000 worth of citations written off by the donations, and the initiative received national attention.

“We were blown away by that,” Wallace said. “That was really exciting, and it’s gotten national coverage again this year already. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future we start to see other cities across the country having their parking authorities do similar things.”

Means said LPA is taking somewhat of a loss with the tickets, but he said 20 percent of parking citations already go unpaid.

“This is a way to maybe get some of those people’s attention who weren’t ever going to pay that citation but now have an opportunity to help in this regard,” Means said. “So we could have said, ‘Let’s just write a $10,000 check,’ but this allows people to be involved who wouldn’t have been involved.”

The idea started gaining traction about two years ago, inspired by similar programs like Toys for Tickets in Boston.

“People hate paying parking tickets, but they love helping the hungry,” Means said. “That’s just kind of the perfect storm, isn’t it?”