The WSU Pullman Food Pantry is receiving a significant boost in support courtesy of students.

Earlier this month, the WSU Board of Regents approved the new Cougs Against Hunger Student Food Pantry Fee, a $5 per semester fee that will go directly to supporting the Pullman campus’ food bank. This after a student ballot measure earlier in the semester drew 70% support.

The new source of revenue enables the food pantry to explore a new location and offer more fresh produce, said Lucila Loera, executive director of the Office for Access and Opportunity. It will also pay for a new full-time employee to manage the pantry and work to address the issue of food insecurity among undergraduate and graduate students.

“Up until now we’ve pretty much operated by donations, and so it was a great surprise when students took this issue on,” Loera said.

The Office for Access and Opportunity works with the WSU Women’s Center, the Center for Civic Engagement and the Office of the Dean of Students to operate the food pantry, with staff from each department as well as others volunteering their time to keep things running smoothly. Pantries were consolidated in an effort to unify each department’s efforts.

“When the pandemic hit, we knew we needed to stay open and come together to meet the needs of students,” Loera said.

In the midst of the pandemic, food insecurity became a new issue for many Pullman students, Loera said. More than 400 curbside food pickups were made in the months following a shift in distribution. Volunteers also delivered boxes of food and other necessities to those who lacked transportation or who were isolating and quarantining.

ASWSU Pullman senator Nife Shola-Dare and Jelani Christopher spearheaded the effort to get students behind the idea of a new fee to support the food pantry. Creating a sustainable solution was their top priority.

“When (Nife) approached me with the idea, it was something I jumped on immediately because I knew that what we needed at WSU was a way to solve this problem that would be sustainable for years to come, so not a budget that may have to be cut when times are tough, but one where the funds will always be there so students who need it have it,” Christopher said.

During the May 6 Board of Regents committee meetings, Shola-Dare emphasized the importance of ensuring students facing food insecurity had a reliable place to go for support.

“I don’t want to imagine that a hungry student would go into the food pantry and find empty shelves,” she said.

The initiative received unanimous support from regents and administrators when presented earlier this month

“This was something (ASWSU Pullman) implemented and they successfully passed on the Pullman campus during the pandemic,” Mary Jo Gonzales, vice president of student affairs, told regents. “This is really what it means for Cougs to help Cougs.”