Donating canned pineapple in 100% fruit juice can now help students and faculty avoid paying pricey parking fines and support UT Outpost, the food pantry and career closet on campus.
Food for Fines is a program created last year by Parking and Transportation Services and Student Government to support UT Outpost. PTS associate director Blanca Gamez said students can participate by taking the canned fruit to any of the staffed parking garages on campus, and the cashier will make the transaction for the students.
“Not only does it allow us to partner with other organizations across campus, but it also allows us to work with students who may not be able to afford their citation but can afford four cans of pineapples,” Gamez said.
Students can pay off their $15 to $35 fines by bring four 20 oz cans and their $36 to $75 fines with six 20-ounce cans. Last year, the program asked for peanut butter, and now they are asking for canned pineapples because they are more allergy friendly and the demand is higher, Gamez said.
“UT outpost looked at their food pantry and saw canned fruit tended to be the most popular item that was requested from students,” Gamez said. “Peanut butter stayed a lot longer and they still have leftovers from last spring.”
UT Outpost director Will Ross said they were very specific about the kind of fruit they wanted because 100% juice is healthier. It is also easier to manage receiving just pineapples compared to receiving all kinds of canned fruit.
“We wanted to find a fruit that is something our students would really want to use on a wide-scale format,” Ross said. “It’s also easy to ask from our donors … because some donors deal with peanut allergies.”
Ross said he is grateful for PTS and SG because they have been very supportive, and programs such as Food for Fines help normalize food insecurity.
“We don’t want students to feel ashamed that they are coming to the UT Outpost,” Ross said. “This is a place of support. Our community is coming around and saying, ‘We are here to help our fellow Longhorns.’”
Mehraz Rahman, student body vice president, said SG decided to continue the partnership and program because the issues of financial and food insecurity have not gone away.
“(SG) wanted to be able to bolster students who really needed that help on campus while at the same time maintaining an important partnership with an important department on campus: PTS,” Rahman said.
Ross said one of the best ways students can donate is through the gift of their time, but programs such as Food for Fines make a big difference.
“It’s a win-win,” Ross said. “You can pay a parking ticket but also do good work at the same time. You know the canned food donations go back directly to Longhorns. It’s a fun way and an easy way to make a contribution to this program.”