Program lets donors help feed hungry students

By Steve Nakata, Administrative Services

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University students who run out of food money will not have to go hungry thanks to a new donor-funded program called Cougs Feeding Cougs. WSU believes it could be a model for universities nationwide.

“We wanted to create an easy process that allows students to request help anonymously,” said Craig Howard, director of administrative services information systems.

Hillside Cafe at WSU Pullman.

WSU faculty, staff and administrators have pitched in $650, and Howard believes support from the community, including alumni, will be strong.

“We have a culture of caring at WSU,” he said. “Parents of students have said they would be willing to contribute to a program like this one.”

Anyone can make a donation using a credit card by visiting

That is also the website where students go to request food funds.

How it works

Enrolled WSU Pullman students, living in residence halls or off-campus, are eligible for assistance. They may request it once a day for a maximum of five days during any 30-day period. Students with a combined balance of $10 or less in their Cougar CASH and dining (RDA) accounts are eligible to request help at

Once a student applies for funds, an account for the Cougs Feeding Cougs program is created for them and $10 is deposited. The student will have up to five days to spend the money using their CougarCard in any of these WSU Dining Services operations:

 Dining centers Hillside Café, Southside Café and Northside Café
 Markets in Global Scholars Hall, CUB, Hillside Café and Stephenson Towers
 Lighty Student Services Building Espresso Bar and Café
 Smith CUE Café and Espresso Bar
 Espresso bars in Cleveland Hall and Northside Café
 In the CUB: Carlita’s Mexican Grille, Freshens Yogurts & Smoothies, Gridiron Burgers & Fries and Reunion Coffee
 Einstein Bros. Bagels in Global Scholars Hall
 Freshens Fresh Food Studio in the Chinook Student Center
 The Den at Northside Café
 Flix at Southside Café

Since students typically purchase food using their CougarCard, no one, including dining staff, will know if a student is using a Cougs Feeding Cougs account.

Students who receive financial aid or an athletic scholarship are encouraged to consult Student Financial Services or the WSU Athletic Compliance Office before requesting funds to be certain the program does not negatively impact their aid.

The program is run by WSU Student Affairs with Dining Services, Housing and Residence Life and the CougarCard Center. It complements other Student Affairs programs that address students’ nutritional needs.

Responding to assist students

Nearly half of college students in the United States don’t have reliable access to food, especially affordable and nutritious food, according to an article released last year (

While that number may seem high, Howard said social media has helped bring to light the challenge of food insecurity at WSU.

Luci Loera, assistant vice president for the Office of Access, Equity and Achievement, said Student Support Services opened a food pantry that has served more than 320 students since recordkeeping began in 2013. Over 100 students dropped by last semester, she said, indicating that the need for such services may be increasing.

The WSU Women’s Resource Center opened a food pantry to complement the donated children’s clothing and diapers provided to student families in need.

“We hear all the time about students who can’t buy food,” said Jennifer Murray, program coordinator. “We see mostly families here that try to stretch their food budget with the donated items in our pantry.”

A model program

Considering how common food insecurity is reported to be, Howard said his team was surprised to discover only a handful of university programs created nationwide to address the issue – and most of them could be improved.

One effort has students request assistance online. Other students seeing the post then offer to meet them where food can be purchased or money exchanged. Not only is the requester’s identity revealed, but the donor must expend personal time and energy – with no guarantee that either person will show up.

Howard believes Cougs Feeding Cougs is the most automated food insecurity assistance program at any university in the nation: “What we aimed to do is leverage the power of the CougarCard system to not only make it easy for both students and donors to use, but also to protect anonymity,” he said.

Students donate too

Students are able to donate to the program as well as benefit from it. Donations made with Cougar CASH or bank cards can be made any time or in any amount. Students with RDA plans can give up to $20 during the academic year, but during the last six weeks of spring semester they can contribute any amount.

Colleen McMahon, Associated Students of WSU (ASWSU) director of university affairs, said she had funds remaining in her RDA account at the end of last year and would have taken advantage of an opportunity to donate to needy students.

“The biggest reason that I, and many other students, came here is for the WSU community and ‘Cougs helping Cougs’ mentality,” she said. “This program exemplifies that spirit and I’m eager to see the positive change it will create.”

ASWSU is drafting a resolution in support of Cougs Feeding Cougs.


News media contacts:
Craig Howard, WSU Administrative Services, 509-335-1872,
Steve Nakata, WSU Administrative Services communications, 509-335-1774,