A $25 parking ticket doesn't exactly say "Happy Holidays!" But instead of having to pay that ticket, you could help make the holiday season a little brighter for someone else by taking part in Tampa's new "Food for Fines" program.
"It's a unique way for the community to say, 'hey, let's help out a neighbor in need,'" said Thomas Mantz, Feeding Tampa Bay executive director.
Jill Seguine is one of those neighbors. Hard times mean getting groceries from a food bank is a necessity to live.
"It means a lot because otherwise me and my son wouldn't have anything," said Seguine.
The way the program works is pretty simple. You just come to the parking division office with a couple of food donations and for every item dropped into the box, you can save $1, up to $15 off a $25 ticket.
If you get a parking meter ticket between now and December 16th, you can participate in "Food for Fines" to knock down what you owe. In the process, you'll feed the hungry, and help the city recoup some of the $64,000 it loses in unpaid fines every year.
"It does hurt us, but inevitably it also hurts the patrons and motorists who are using our assets," said Ocea Lattimore, Tampa's director of logisitics and asset management.
And the need for donated food items is huge.
"More folks are food insecure or don't have access to the food they need than ever, probably in the history of the United States," said Mantz.
The food bank and city are hoping lots of people pay up and pitch in. If "Food for Fines" is a success, it could be back next holiday season, or even become a permanent city program.
You can drop off donations at the same location where you pay parking tickets, the Fort Brooke Garage, located at 107 N. Franklin St. in Tampa. Donations can also be dropped off to Feeding Tampa Bay, 4702 Transport Dr. in Tampa. If you take items there, you'll be given a voucher to be used as credit toward paying off parking tickets.