'Food for Fines' allows Stillwater parking violators to substitute food donations for fines

During March, the city of Stillwater is allowing folks who get parking tickets to put food on the table for needy families instead of paying a fine.

Rather than cough up $15, the "Food for Fines" program allows parking violators to bring 10 food items to the Valley Outreach Food Shelf.

Tracy Maki, director of the food shelf, says when she heard of other cities doing similar things, she thought, "Oh my gosh, we have to do that in Stillwater!"

Her proposal won the support of the Stillwater Parking Commission.

Aimee Pelletier, chair of the commission, says, "It was an easy thing to do. Who wouldn't want to pay with food instead of $15 cash?"

The Valley Outreach Food Shelf assist 425 households every month, but Maki says Food for Fines goes beyond putting eats on the table.

"I think it's less about how much food we bring in than the fact that people are connecting to the community more broadly," she says.

Valley Outreach chose March for Food for Fines because it's FoodShare Month -- a campaign to encourage people to donate food to food shelves everywhere.

The Stillwater Parking Commission says they usually make about $3,000 in fines during the month of March, but are happy to give it up to help out those in need and raise awareness.