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Challah For Hunger: The Penn State Club That Bakes A Difference

Penn State’s chapter of Challah for Hunger bakes the traditional braided Jewish bread, challah, and donates the proceeds to the State College Food Bank and Swipe Out Hunger. The club bakes all the challah with love in the Hillel Kosher kitchen located in Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on campus.

Challah for Hunger’s national organization provides each chapter with mentors, guidelines, and resources so that chapters like Penn State’s can explore advocacy opportunities, find new challah recipes, and offer community programs.

Challah for Hunger’s advocacy and outreach aligns with the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, a principle that prepares the world and advocates for those in need. The club brought Swipe Out Hunger, a program that aims to end college student hunger, to Penn State from the club’s participation in the National Hunger Project cohort.

Last year, Challah for Hunger’s bakes were put on hold due to the pandemic, but that didn’t stop the club from passionately making a difference and advocating for the community. The club took part in Letters to Elders and sent cards to nursing homes to brighten the days of residents. Additionally, members made security blankets for children in vulnerable positions through Project Linus. Now that the club is back in person, it has resumed baking and fundraising from their bake sales.

“We do hope to get back to actually hands-on volunteering, but as of now, our main goal is just to make the largest financial contribution that we can to the State College Food Bank,” said Alyssa Malerman, president of Challah for Hunger.

Previously, the club worked with Greek Life organizations to partner in fundraisers. But after seeing a large increase in club members and orders, Challah For Hunger is putting those partnerships on hold.

“We’re still trying to figure out the logistics of getting back into baking ourselves, but we’re looking forward to more [partnering] towards the end of the semester,” said Leah Bodinger, Challah for Hunger’s vice president.

Courtesy of Challah for Hunger

An order form is put out bi-weekly to gauge how many loaves the club needs to bake at meetings. At this year’s first bake, the club saw a huge increase in interest and baked 75 loaves of challah, an effort that took more than five hours. The club usually baked around 30 loaves per order round in previous years.

“To see that huge increase was a little terrifying, but also really great to be able to know that we were making a difference and raising that much money just in a single bake,” said Bodinger.

Even though the order volume increased significantly, so did the club’s size. Challah for Hunger saw lots of new members come out for the first bake, and they all were incredibly eager to be in the kitchen baking for a cause.

Courtesy of PSU Challah for Hunger

Each round of orders offers three different challahs: two classics and one rotated either sweet or savory. Challah for Hunger’s classic loaves come in plain, everything bagel, and chocolate chip flavors. Some of the rotating loaves include pumpkin, cinnamon bun, and chai tea.

“So many of our recipes have been crafted by Leah and her experimentation with different challah recipes. It is absolutely incredible, the recipes that she’s been able to come up with,” said Malerman. “Like, the chai tea recipe was just her little brain baby, which turned out to be such an amazing success.”

Although challah has its Jewish affiliation, Challah for Hunger is open to anyone of any heritage. All folks can get involved, whether it’s through bakes or through donations when receiving loaves of challah.

“We are just a group of people who like to bake and like so make a difference, so all are welcome. It’s a lot of fun for a great cause,” said Malerman.

The next Challah for Hunger bake will stretch from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on October 7 at Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, where pizza will be provided. You can find more info about Challah for Hunger and the upcoming order form for that bake through the club’s Instagram.

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About the Author

Mackenna Yount

Mackenna Yount is a sophomore food science major from Manitou Springs, Colorado. She loves food, is addicted to coffee, and can give you random facts or bad jokes that you didn't ask for. Ask her to bake gluten-free cupcakes and she'll throw in some brownies, too. Mackenna can be contacted via Twitter @mackennayount (especially if you want to show off your best dad jokes) or you can shoot her an email at [email protected]

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