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Students and staff can use soup cans to pay off UT parking tickets

A student walks in front of UT Austin's tower in the fall.
Gabriel C. Pérez
UT is allowing students and staff with parking citations to donate cans of soup instead of paying their fines.

Nearly 100 cans of soup – worth more than $600 in parking citations – have been donated since Monday’s launch of Food for Fines, a collaborative program between UT Austin’s food pantry and UT Parking and Transportation Services.

Through the program, students and staff at the university can pay off $15-$35 citations with five 10-ounce cans of soup, and $36-$75 citations with seven 10-ounce cans of soup. The donations can be made at any of the six parking garage offices located on campus until March 24.

“This program is a way to help our campus community remove or waive a parking citation by making a donation of soup that will end up being received by the UT Outpost,” said Valeria Martin, the student emergency services coordinator for the food pantry.

Food for Fines began in 2018 as an initiative between UT Outpost, Parking and Transportation Services and UT student government as a way to address food insecurity, PTS Director Blanca Gamez said. In the program’s first year, 160 jars of peanut butter were exchanged for $1,000 in fines; the following year, 328 cans of pineapple were exchanged for nearly $3,000 in fines, she said. After a three-year hiatus during the COVID pandemic, Gamez said, organizers anticipate the trade deal will yield impressive results.

“Two days into the program … we’ve already collected close to 100 cans of soup,” she said. “It’s pretty phenomenal.”

The donations are expected to benefit many students on campus, especially those who frequent the Outpost.

Full-time student Sadie Lopez said she stops by once or twice a month. She doesn’t drive, so she appreciates the Outpost's proximity.

“UT Outpost is a great resource,” she said. “I think for someone who has a car and who has tickets, this would be great for them to kind of give, like a quid pro quo, [to] help someone.”

To learn more about what type of parking citations are eligible for the trade, students and staff can visit the Food for Fines website.

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