WSU Libraries donates 270 pounds of food to student food pantry

WSU Libraries donates 270 pounds of food to the Cougar Food Pantry. Photographed by Makenna Larson.
WSU Libraries donates 270 pounds of food to the Cougar Food Pantry. Photographed by Makenna Larson.

Each day at 3 p.m., Merri Lecoq, a single mom and full-time student, became hungry. 

She stopped by the vending machine for a packet of peanut M&Ms, which had at least a little bit of protein to get her through the rest of the day. It was all she could afford. Although student loans and Pell Grants covered her tuition at Eastern Washington University, Lecoq said her lack of food security caused lasting impacts on her health.

“When you’re trying to do that and trying to learn, it’s really not possible. You’re just like, ‘I’ve gotta get through this as fast as possible, so I can start making money so I can be ok,’” Lecoq said. “You’re just hustling to get through.” 

Lecoq, now the Cougar Food Pantry coordinator, said people see the need for donations to the food pantry during the holidays to support WSU students, but many stop there. The WSU Libraries, however, recognized the need for year-round support and are “doing something about it.”

WSU Libraries held their third annual Donation Drive Oct. 16-30, collecting nonperishable foods to donate to the Cougar Food Pantry, said Makenna Larson, food drive organizer and library fiscal specialist. The libraries hosted the drive before fall break so students could stock up on food and Thanksgiving meals well in advance. 

Faculty and staff placed canned and boxed goods on carts in Holland’s Library Administrative Office and the Owen Science and Engineering Library, with their efforts contributing to 270 pounds of food. This is an increase of 70 pounds from last year’s donation. 

As students near the end of the semester, many of their dining dollars have already been spent. For students who do not have extra funds after paying tuition and covering their housing bills, food is often their last concern, Lecoq said. 

“If all of your financial aid has gone to just covering the basics, then when something comes up, you’re like, ‘I just won’t eat,’” she said. 

Since the food pantry opened in fall 2021, it has seen a steady increase in student need, Lecoq said. From fall 2022 to spring 2023, about 200 new students visited the food pantry. In the past two months, there have been 6,000 visits, with students consuming about 3,200 pounds of food. 

Lecoq said donations are vital to the food pantry’s success, especially since resources are limited for college students in Pullman needing free food. 

When she began working for the food pantry a little over a year ago, Lecoq witnessed the first large donation from the WSU Libraries. The pantry was struggling to stock its shelves, and three decorated boxes holding soup, mac and cheese, and pasta were a welcome sight, she said. 

“It was like this wonderful little gift of, ‘Now you can stock the shelves. People won’t come in and see empty shelves and walk away and not have anything,’” Lecoq said. 

Do-Gyun Kim, a fifth-year doctoral student in biological systems engineering, said he visits the food pantry about twice a month. He picked up tomato sauce on Nov. 17, right before fall break.  

“I can easily [shop at] this place instead of going to Walmart and Target, [which] are kind of far from campus,” he said. 

Larson said it is amazing to watch the libraries’ contribution make a direct impact on students’ lives, especially since she knew students in her undergraduate years at the University of Montevallo in Alabama who faced food insecurity. 

Her friend, who was studying nutrition, conducted a survey of her fellow sorority sisters to find out whether or not they knew where their next meal was coming from. The poll found upward of 60 percent of the women faced food scarcity. As their resident adviser and friend, Larson found it shocking and thought about the survey frequently after the fact. 

Now, each day on her way to work, Larson walks by the food pantry, watching as students flow in and food leaves the shelves.

“Students can only be as successful as their circumstances allow them to be,” she said.