It started with two totes tucked away in a WSU Tri-Cities administration office.
Staff could only keep dry goods in the totes, but students could pick up some if they needed it.
Even with the limited selection, more than 350 students used the service in the past two years. It eventually prompted the university branch campus to open a pantry.
Yet, WSU officials say that's only one quarter of the students that officials believe have struggled with finding food since 2016.
A survey found that one in three students reported struggling financially, including not being able to buy food.
"We have many students who may not know where their next meal is coming from, or are unable to feed their families due to limiting factors outside of their control," said Jordyn Creighton, WSU Tri-Cities' student financial and support services manager.
And it's not just the Cougs.
College campuses across the country are struggling with hungry students. The problem strikes community colleges, and small and large universities.
Those needy students spend as much time devoted to their school-work as other students, Sara Goldrick-Rab, a Temple University sociologist, told the Associated Press.
They also work longer and get less sleep, Goldrick-Rab said. The stress adds up, as they tend to get lower grades and are less likely to graduate.
Students in their mid-20s are at a higher risk of food insecurity.
Colleges and universities are throwing open pantries to try to alleviate the problem. The number of pantries in the national College and University Food Bank Alliance tripled between 2015-17.
WSU Tri-Cities and Columbia Basin College have joined the push too.
The WSU branch campus partnered with Second Harvest in Pasco to create the Cougar Cupboard last week, filled with food.
CBC partnered with New Horizons High School in January to use that school's food pantry, which also is filled by Second Harvest.
The high school, which recently opened on the college campus, was looking to repay the college for its help with the move, Principal Seth Johnson said.
It's a way the high school can help students as they transition to college life.
In the first week at CBC, 19 students signed up to use it. That went up to 74 people in February, including serving 37 children.
In response, Second Harvest doubled its deliveries to New Horizons.
Officials said the advantage of school-based food banks is in not needing to find the local food bank, or trying to qualify for federal food assistance.
"We want to make sure we are preventing as many barriers as possible that would limit their academic potential, and, in turn, their future success," Creighton said. "Everyone needs food to survive and it's a crucial competent to our student's academic success."
Second Harvest supplies 70 food banks in Benton and Franklin counties, said Ettie Johnson, the volunteer center manager.
The partnerships allows the organization to make sure more people can get the food they need.
"Our goal at Second Harvest is to get healthy food to everyone who needs it," she said. "When you see that people are struggle, the first thing to go is the quality of their food."
Students looking to use Columbia Basin College's food pantry can go to the Resource Center, Resident Life, the Workforce Education Center, Transitional Studies, Recreation and Activities or the student government offices to get a referral slip.
People can sign up to shop at WSU Tri-Cities new pantry by signing up at bit.ly/WSUFoodBank. Information about donations is also available on the page.