Hungry for Challah

CIO sells uniquely flavored bread to raise money for hunger relief


As students flood the sidewalks during their walk to Thursday classes, Challah for Hunger volunteers gather behind their table on South Lawn to sell fresh-baked Challah to students in flavors ranging from pumpkin chocolate chip to s’mores.

Founded in 2004 at Scripps College, Challah for Hunger is an international organization with more than 62 chapters on three different continents.

The University chapter of Challah for Hunger was founded in 2011 after University alumna Kate Belza learned about the organization during a trip to Israel. The group provides hunger relief both locally and abroad by selling challah, a traditional Jewish bread, to University students. Half of the organization’s profits goes to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and the other half goes to refugee support in Darfur.

“[Challah for Hunger] seems like a really good model — you fix problems right here at home, but you’re also thinking globally,” said Education and Advocacy Chair Ana Mendelson, a second-year College student.

Weekly challah sales require multiple days of preparation. On Tuesdays, volunteers make all of the dough and let it rise overnight. Wednesday volunteers are in charge of braiding and baking the bread. On Wednesday night, members drive their first batch of challah to Congregation Beth Israel, a synagogue downtown, and sells some of the freshly baked bread to families attending religious school. On Thursday morning, the challah is packaged and tabling on the Lawn begins at 10 a.m.

“I’ve always come to volunteer on Wednesday when we do the baking and the braiding,” said Vice President of Baking Sara Brodsky, a third-year Commerce student. “That’s what’s really fun for me. It lets me take my mind off school and relax for a few hours. It’s nice to have that scheduled break every week.”

The organization makes its weekly batch of challah based on pre-orders, but it typically serves 150 loaves of bread each week, 50 of which are brought to Congregation Beth Israel.

The group’s 10-person executive board, led by third-year College student Olivia Brown, is responsible for planning flavors for upcoming weeks and holding taste tests to try new flavors. Recent additions include cinnamon roll and Mayan hot chocolate.

The board members face unexpected challenges like any other CIO, Brown said, theirs just involve forgetting an entire bowl of dough in the freezer or attempting to bake during a power outage.

“It’s a lot of logistics,” Brown said. “The biggest challenge is making sure all of the small pieces fit together.”

Challah for Hunger members aim to expand the group’s presence on Grounds in the coming semester and increase their volunteer base.

“My favorite part [of being involved in the CIO] is every time I get to talk to someone new and explain what Challah for Hunger is,” Mendelson said. “Everyone I’ve talked to has had a really positive reaction. There’s just no downside to it.”

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