Food banks support Cougs, locals in need

MATTHEW BRUNSTETTER | Evergreen news editor

Students and other members of the Pullman community can receive help when they need it from any of Pullman’s volunteer food banks.

These include the Pullman Food Bank, the Community Action Center and an on-campus pantry maintained by Student Support Services (SSS), a group of WSU students who volunteer to collect food, clothes and hygiene items.

“We understand they are working hard and we want to help them so they can worry about other things,” said Eva Navarijo, the First Scholars program coordinator. “We know school is the focus, so let me focus on the food.”

With its food bank, SSS tries to offer essential nutrition to those in need.

Lucila Loera, the assistant vice president for access, equity and achievement for Student Affairs, said the food bank often carries sources of protein like canned meats and powdered milk in addition to college staples like ramen and mac ’n’ cheese.

The group also tries to offer hygiene products like toothbrushes, toilet paper and soap; professional clothing for interviews – sometimes even dress shoes.

“Shoes are pretty hard,” SSS program coordinator Hildegarde Velasco said. “Sometimes they’ll just bring (clothes) back because they just needed them for an interview or something.”

Although these resources are available to all students, SSS members said they’re not often utilized.

“More colleagues know about it,” Loera said.

“We don’t do a lot of publicity about it, it usually stems from conversations that students have with their professors.”

Donations at the Pullman Food Bank go mostly to non-student Pullman residents, manager Debbie Thompsen said. Thompsen said she is extremely grateful to those students who donate or volunteer.

“I don’t think the good all the WSU students do gets recognized enough,” she said.

Because the SSS food bank offers only temporary support, the group works with students in more serious circumstances to connect with other food banks in the area. SSS works closely with the Pullman Food Bank and the Community Action Center.

Velasco said she notices the food bank being utilized most during the beginning and end of each semester. As many students live in residence halls, they often turn to the food bank when their dining accounts run low.

“Sometimes it will be a few weeks before a break when they can go home, so we’ll help plan out for the following weeks before breaks,” she said.

Velasco said resources are often tight as the group relies on the WSU community for donations. She said helping students is a humbling experience.

“It makes me feel good after helping someone, you know?” she said. “Helping them with the necessities they need for the semester so they can have one less thing to worry about – something so basic.”