Athens County, and particularly Ohio University, has long took a stand as a sanctuary for eco-friendly and sustainable minds. The university was first awarded the STARS Silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) in 2015. 2018 was the second year that Ohio University was awarded a STARS Silver rating. 

The eco-friendly community of Athens county was the poorest county in the entire state of Ohio in 2016 based on poverty rate. This seems unlikely because of the growing nature of the University presence and campus here in town. Additionally Hocking College is a growing institution that is also located within the boundaries of the county. 

With tens of thousands of students living or commuting to these locations each year, you would assume that a different rural county in Ohio would take the poverty cake. But, it is Athens that is stricken the worse by the ravishing nature of poverty. Walking down Court Street to class, it is not unlikely to walk past a homeless man begging for change on the sidewalk. This obvious lack of access to free or reduced cost meals is something that could be handled by the many college students located within our county. 

“Food for Fines” is a term for a policy that has been variously adapted by universities around the nation over the last decade. Large scale prominent universities like Notre Dame, University of Florida, Colorado Boulder, University of Texas San Antonio, Northern Michigan and University of Cincinnati here in Ohio have all adopted “food for fines” programs. 

The policy allows for parking violation tickets issued on campuses to be forgiven with the donation of something like 10 canned food items per ticket. The policies vary from campus to campus, but overall provide a great opportunity for students who are generally fed up with paying parking tickets to donate their own food goods to the needy. In response the city can appropriate less funding to feeding the homeless if they could be fed exclusively from donations.

This practice of “food for fines” has taken root and proved its efficiency at the county level as well. In Lexington and Fayette Counties in Kentucky, a “food for fines” program was enacted prior to the holiday season to incentivize giving back to the local community. Gary Means, the parking authority director indicated that over 8,000 people in Lexington county had outstanding parking violations during the policy enactment period. 

It is evident that the county of Athens has had a history of struggling with poverty in the local community. An extremely plausible and ethical solution to this issue is a policy like “food for fines.” If Ohio University cares about it’s community and sustainability as much as they say they do, then adopting a policy like this is a no brainer in the current day and age. I believe that if the university successfully adopted a policy like this, the entire county could also adopt a similarly working proposal that would take effect across the entire county instead of harnessing donations from just campus parking violations. 

Nick Shook is a senior studying political science pre-law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Let Nick know by emailing him at ns258814@ohio.edu

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