Ocean County Library helps the community

Photo caption: (left to right) Ocean County Library Director Susan Quinn, Ocean County Health Department Public Health Coordinator Daniel Regeyne, Library Commission Chairperson Henry J. Mancini, and Ocean County Freeholders Joseph H. Vicari and Gerry P. Little begin loading a truck with food collected during the Food For Fines program conducted by the library’s 21 locations. The food was sent to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

TOMS RIVER – The Ocean County Library and Ocean County Health Department donated more than 2.5 tons of food to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties last week.

The library collected 5,112 pounds of canned goods and nonperishable foods during its “Food for Fines” program that ran from July 9 through July 14. The food was collected at all of the library’s 21 locations.

In comparison, the “Food for Fines” program held in April 2009 during National Library Week collected 4,165 pounds, or just over 2 tons, of food. 

Library customers who owed fines on overdue materials were able to exchange the food items for a reduction of their fine, up to a maximum of $20 per person.

“The “Food for Fines” program would not have been possible without the partnership of the Ocean County Health Department,” said Library Director Susan Quinn. “They approached the library with the idea for running the program when they saw an urgent need in the community through the work they do every day in promoting healthy lifestyles and providing leadership in consistent, quality healthcare for the community.”

In April the Ocean County Library Commission adopted a resolution, approving the idea.

“The Food for Fines program is another great example of the working partnerships that exist between The County of Ocean and its many agencies and service programs,” said Ocean County Library Commission Chairperson Henry J. Mancini. “Working together for the people of the community is what it’s all about. The Ocean County Library is happy to be part of such a worthwhile program.  Thank you to all who helped and supported it.”

“The Ocean County Health Department is always thrilled and proud to work with our library system and we are so excited at the amount of food that our Ocean County residents took the time to donate,” said Leslie D. Terjesen, Ocean County Health Department Information, Education and Outreach Coordinator. “With the all of us working together, we truly can make a difference to help reduce hunger.”

The idea was also supported by the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

“I want to thank all of our library patrons who contributed to the Food for Fines program,” said Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari. “Normally, we ask that all of our residents return their borrowed materials in a timely manner, but if you had to return a book late, July was a great time to do it.”

Vicari is the Board of Chosen Freeholders’ liaison to the library system.

 “We especially appreciate those residents that contributed to the food drive even though they didn’t owe a late fine,” said Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little.

“Summer is traditionally the slowest season for collecting food donations and the Food for Fines effort helped draw attention to the fact that our food banks need year-round support,” he said.

The food drive not only exceeded 2009’s total, but it also included more donations than in the past.

“This year the majority of food came from donations and not fine exchanges,” said Quinn.  “What an extraordinary and generous community that we live in here in Ocean County.”

“Connecting People, Building Community” is the mission of the Ocean County Library. I cannot thank our library patrons and our library staff enough for their support of the “Food for Fines” program,” she added. 

The library waived $1,707.50 in fines for the program.

“This was outstanding for a one-week drive,” said Linda Keenan, the food bank’s Director of Development, “and this makes a great impact on hunger in Ocean County.”

“It is most important to remember that hunger does not take a break during the summer,” said Carlos Rodriguez, Executive Director of the food bank.

Last year, the FoodBank distributed food to over 250 partner agencies; currently 121 of them are in Ocean County. Those agencies distributed food in their neighborhoods to over 127,000 people in need, or 1 in every 10 Monmouth and Ocean County residents.

In Ocean County last year 42,300 people were served by the FoodBank.  Forty-four percent of those served were children.

The FoodBank also has 12 mobile pantry sites in Ocean County (that increases to 15 during the summer) serving over 500 households per month; a senior program that serves 171 Ocean County seniors; and a Culinary Job Skills Training program. Five Ocean County residents graduated from that program last year.

 “There are two important things that this drive accomplished,” said Rodriguez.  “First, it provided food for those in need.  And second, it provided an awareness of the ongoing hunger in our community.”

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