Burlington, VT, Donates Half of Revenue from Parking Ticket Fines to Fight Food Insecurity

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Fines for Food

Overview: A pilot program in Burlington, Vermont, will donate 50 percent of overdue parking ticket fines to Feeding Chittenden to help fight food insecurity. 

Location: Burlington, VT

Population: 43,063

Food policy category: Food security

Program goals: To increase funding to fight food insecurity and tp reduce exposure to vehicle impoundment and subsequent loss of income. 

How it works: Burlington residents currently owe more than $800,000 in overdue parking ticket fines, and 500 individuals owe enough money ($275 or more) that their vehicles could be towed or impounded if they receive another violation starting in February 2022. When residents pay their fines, either online or at the municipal building, 50 percent of their fees will go towards fighting food insecurity through the not-for-profit organization, Feeding Chittenden

Feeding Chittenden is the largest direct service emergency food provider in Vermont and serves more than 12,000 people each year. Programs include:

  • Food Shelf: Provides prepackaged boxes including a week’s supply of food to those in need.
  • Hot Meals: Serves one hot meal per day to food-insecure individuals.
  • Community Kitchen Academy: A culinary job training program. Meals prepared by participants are provided to food-insecure community residents.
  • Homebound Delivery: Once a month, a five-day supply of meals is delivered to homebound elderly and disabled residents. 
  • Food Rescue: Staff and volunteers collect perishable food that would otherwise be wasted and use it to prepare meals for food-insecure individuals. 
  • The Good Food Truck: Travels through the community to provide food to the hungry. 

The Burlington City Council and the Department of Public Works hope that individuals will be motivated to pay off their parking tickets, knowing their money will help to serve the greater good. 

Progress to date: The program was approved on December 13, 2021, and began on December 15. 

Why it is important: Although Chittenden County is considered one of the healthiest in Vermont, ten percent of its residents are still food-insecure. Food insecurity is linked to a variety of chronic illnesses, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity, as well as increased stress and poor mental health. 

Program/Policy initiated: The pilot program has been in place since December 15 and runs through January 15, 2022. 

Point of contact: 
Karen Paul, Burlington City Councilor, Ward 6
Phone: (802) 863-3817
Email: kpaul@burlingtonvt.gov 

Jeff Padgett, Division Director for Parking and Traffic
Burlington Department of Public Works
Phone: 802-863-9094
Email: JPadgett@burlingtonvt.gov 

Similar practices: The city of Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon territory has an annual Food for Fines program that runs for one week every December. During this week, residents can pay off their parking fines with donations of cash and/or non-perishable foods that are provided to the Whitehorse Food Bank and the Kaushee’s Place women’s shelter.

Evaluation: A final evaluation has not yet been conducted. As of February 10, 2022, the program has donated $40,000 to Feeding Chittenden.

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