Food insecurity has proven to be a critical issue for many college students and their families, which is why Lamb Weston has joined forces with Washington State University Tri‑Cities to support the Cougar Cupboard, the campus’ food pantry program.

As part of a reception that takes place at 2:30 p.m. in the WSU Tri‑Cities East Commons on Friday, June 21, Lamb Weston will present WSU Tri‑Cities with a $25,000 check to support a new industrial freezer, the salaries for student workers who will ensure that the Cougar Cupboard will remain open longer and the cost of additional food and toiletry items not regularly being provided.

Lamb Weston will also provide $25,000 to the WSU Tri-Cities Cougar Cupboard program the following year to support student salaries and the overall program, and has pledged an additional $25,000 for the third year.

“Providing access to food is so important to food security, and we’re proud to partner with WSU Tri‑Cities on this initiative,” said Deb Dihel, vice president innovation and co‑chair of Lamb Weston’s giving committee. “By providing this service, the university is allowing students to focus on what matters – succeeding at school.”

The reality of food insecurity for WSU Tri‑Cities students

At WSU Tri‑Cities, approximately 37 percent of students have identified that it is difficult for them to meet their daily living expenses and 7 percent of students indicated they are at risk of homelessness.

“Some of our students may have to make the choice of whether they are going to buy food to feed themselves and their family or pay for college – which has the potential to ensure a better life for themselves and their families,” said Jordyn Creighton, director of campus student support services. “We want to ensure that our students have access to basic needs like food and toiletries so that they can focus more of their attention on their studies and not have to make that difficult choice.”

Food insecurity has been linked to lower graduation rates, as students may dedicate more time to working to support themselves and their families and less time studying, change their eating habits and decrease food shopping, postpone essential healthcare, go without a computer or not buy all required books or supplies, to name a few examples.

WSU Tri‑Cities revamped and re‑opened its Cougar Cupboard program in Aug. 2018 in partnership with Second Harvest, unveiling a new location in the East Building Commons with new fresh food access. Since that period, the program has seen a 600 percent increase in use.

Through the program, students can choose to shop for items during the program’s regular hours, make a reservation to shop during non‑regular hours, or arrange to have a bag of food prepared and reserved for them.

“The Cougar Cupboard has shown to serve a real need, and the reception from students has been immensely positive,” Creighton said. “The large increase in student usage is showing that we are making strides in helping eliminate barriers to student success.”

Partnering to make a difference

Creighton said they are incredibly grateful to Lamb Weston in their support of the Cougar Cupboard.

“They are helping to ensure student success by ensuring that no student, or their family, has to go hungry,” she said.