Food for Fines Gives UT Community an Alternative to Paying Parking Tickets
By Avery Garrett
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas – Students and staff have until March 24 to pay for their parking tickets with soup cans instead of money, which could mean big savings for drivers who received one of more than 7,000 parking tickets issued on UT’s campus since August.
Food for Fines is a UT Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) initiative that allows students and staff to donate canned goods to dismiss citations. The cans will go to the campus food pantry, UT Outpost, to help fill its shelves and provide nutritional items for students.
Valeria Martin, the Student Emergency Services Coordinator for UT Outpost, said nearly one third of UT students struggle to afford nutritious meals.
“This year, a lot more students are learning about UT Outpost and using the resource, which is great. And that also means that food flies off our shelves and, in particular, some of the items that are easy for students to cook and quick for them,” Martin said.
That is why UT Outpost asked specifically for cans of soup this year.
UT PTS first collaborated with UT Outpost in 2018 to find a way to give back to the campus community. Blanca Gamez, the parking services director, said the program’s main goal is to combat food insecurity.
“Food insecurities is a real thing on our campus. As a department, how can we give back? How can we address that,” Gamez said. “We had an avenue to do that with our citations, and so we decided what better way to give back to the campus community.”
Martin said more than 2,000 students sought assistance from the UT Outpost this year. The goal with Food for Fines is to keep more food on UT Outpost’s shelves.
“With such a large department as parking and transportation, I think this will greatly benefit our students, and it has in the past,” Martin said.
UT Outpost relies on large-scale donations like Food for Fines. In the future, Gamez said UT PTS hopes to do this program biannually to help sustain more students that are in need of these resources.
“We are always so excited to partner with as many campus entities as we can because that helps us spread awareness about UT Outpost to students that may not know we exist but maybe could benefit from our resources,” Martin said.
Collections in previous years included items like peanut butter and cans of pineapple, which totaled nearly $7,500 in waived citations.
Soup cans must be at least 10 ounces, unopened and unexpired to qualify for Food for Fines. A donation of five cans of soup covers fines up to $35, while seven cans will clear a fine of up to $75. Students and faculty can donate cans at any staffed parking garage on campus.
Gamez said Food for Fines exceeded its goal for this year with over 400 cans of soup collected, amounting to nearly $2,400 in citations.