“Local Hunger Fighters” is a series that spotlights our awesome volunteers, community partners and donors who help raise awareness of hunger in our community and motivate people to get involved.

This month, our Community Relations Officer Bernadette White nominated Anna Koch, Foster City Library Manager. Anna Koch has been partnering with Second Harvest Food bank for the last 7 years during the annual Food for Fines program, a library community food drive that allows patrons to clear library fines while providing food to those in need. Food for Fines is a collaboration among the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, Burlingame Library, Daly City Public Library, Redwood City Public Library, San Mateo County Libraries, San Mateo Public Library, South San Francisco Library, and Second Harvest.

“Anna has been such a wonderful driver for the Food for Funds initiative in San Mateo County. She is extremely passionate about the Food for Fines program. She also helped provide needed information and early guidance for the Santa Clara County Library District when they first decided they wanted to also host a Food for Fines drive,” said Bernadette White.

Anna will be honored during our Make Hunger History Awards event in May 2018 and is the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Drive Coordinator award.

How did you get involved with Second Harvest?

I started working at the Foster City library in 2009. The Food for Fines program started in 2010. At the time, we already had Second Harvest’s barrels in our library. An Aids Community Research Consortium manager in Redwood City and myself reached out to Supervisor Carole Groom inquiring about food drives. Second Harvest seemed like a natural partner and jumped on board pretty quickly. It started in Carole Groom’s office, and she had a strong interest in all libraries doing this.

We have been coordinating the efforts over the last 7 years. There’s a lot of excitement both from the patrons and from the library staff to be able to waive fines; it’s really a win-win situation for both sides.

When the program started, it only took place in December, but recently we extended the timeline. Last year, it took place during November and December.

We try to keep the program really simple. There’s no fee structure: no X amount or pounds of food is needed to clear up X amount of fines. We’ve been pleasantly surprised that a lot of people with no fees enjoy participating in the program.

Promotional graphic for the latest Food for Fines program, which took place last November-December

What inspires you to fight hunger?

I grew up in San Francisco, and I’ve seen the need, with a growing homeless population. I believe nobody should go hungry in 2018, especially in a country like the United States. A lot of libraries, such as the East Palo Alto library, have started to offer lunch programs.

Why do you partner with Second Harvest?

Second Harvest does awesome work, and the partnership covers a lot of territory.

At the end of the day, Food for Fines is really a “feel good” program, with which we are helping people at a needy time of the year – the holidays – and help them start the new year in a clear state.

Everybody wins with the program. You can’t buy this kind of ad for the library anywhere. It’s good PR for us.

We got calls from all over the country asking about the program!

I also would like to add that Second Harvest has been great with delivering bins and picking up food.

What is your best memory with Second Harvest?

Food for Fines is my favorite library program of the year! You get happy people, materials are returned to us… What’s not to like?!

Thank you Anna for being a local hunger fighter and inspiring us all!