Filling A Need in the Community

Neill Public Library's Food for Fines Campaign
Posted on 03/25/2023
Marisa Gibler

Filling a Need in the Community
Marisa Gibler

With prices rising across the board, the pinch is often felt especially at the grocery store. Not to belabor the popular topic of eggs, but it seems as though the prices of most reliably cheap ingredients are jumping by a significant margin. It’s no surprise that after fixed expenses like housing and utility bills are covered, one of the few places left to cut spending is on groceries, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so. How do frugal home cooks make do when they’re buying unfamiliar ingredients in quantities too small for experimentation? In a word: research.

Cookbooks detailing “budget” recipes are flying off the shelves here at Neill Public Library, even as new editions are added. Even more titles are available online as e-books at Washington Anytime Library. Take a look at our recommendations at the end of this article if you’re interested in finding new, budget-friendly recipes. But sometimes, even the most ingenious recipes can’t turn an empty pantry into a full meal, and that’s where community organizations step in to provide vital support.

Neill Public Library staff felt called to help after reading a news article about the plight of local community organizations struggling to meet demand this past winter. Spokane’s Second Harvest warehouse has been impacted by decreasing donations, leading to the suspension of deliveries to communities like Pullman. Second Harvest is a nonprofit that supplies a network of partner food banks, meal sites and other programs feeding people in need in 21 counties in Eastern Washington and 5 counties in North Idaho. Without that resource to rely upon, regional food banks have been left with increasingly empty shelves.

Many libraries across the country, including those in Latah and Whitman counties, regularly run “Food 4 Fines” promotions, and NPL saw an opportunity to join in. The library partnered with Pullman’s Community Action Center, inquiring about what was most needed, and passed that information along to the public. A shopping cart festooned with flyers was parked near the circulation desk, attracting the attention of patrons young and old, and posters featuring empty grocery bags lined the wall. Throughout the entire month of February, those empty bags began to fill: staff waived overdue fees for patrons who brought in donations, and paper cut-outs representing the total weight of each day’s donations were added to the posters. In addition to food, NPL accepted household paper goods and personal hygiene products, and encouraged the public to make donations online directly to Pullman Community Action Center. Not only did library patrons rise to the occasion and fill that empty grocery cart, but several generous people came bearing bags or even cases of donations, and then asked that fines be waived from the accounts of those who couldn’t afford to donate. The final tally came to more than 470 pounds of donated goods, and brought some relief - and smiles - to the Community Action Center.

Neill Public Library is pleased to offer free accounts to anyone 18 and over (or under! Just bring a parent or guardian along). Stop by to open an account and take a look at our selection of budget-friendly cookbooks. Don’t have time to drop in? Try an e-book on the Libby app, such as “$10 Dinners;” “$7 a Meal Healthy Cookbook;” or “A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Depression.” Additional titles available as print books at the library include: “Sheet Pan 5-Ingredient Cookbook;” “Ultimate Meal-Prep Cookbook;” “Simply Happy Cookbook: Nothing Complicated - Everything Delicious!;” “Dinner in One: Exceptional & Easy One-Pan Dinners;” “Taste of Home - Dinner on a Dime;” “Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day;” and “100 Days of Real Food on a Budget.” Thanks to all of our wonderful library patrons for their generosity, and happy eating!

Marisa Gibler is a Circulation and Reference Assistant at Neill Public Library