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Challah for Hunger creates resource guide for food-insecure students Story by: Abigail Charpentier & Photos by: Caroline O'Connor

The University of Massachusetts’ chapter of Challah for Hunger will start selling challah loaves for $3 on Friday, Oct. 5 in the Campus Center to help fight food insecurity on campus.

“We try to help food insecurity and fight student hunger and hunger in the general community in this area by baking challahs,” said Grace Sternklar, the chapter volunteer and public health senior. “We use the proceeds from that to donate to a local organization."

The organization is a nationwide nonprofit that bakes and sells challah, braided bread generally cooked and eaten during Jewish ceremonial occasions, for social justice causes. Half of the money that is raised is donated to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger and the other half is donated to a local organization. In past years, the UMass chapter has given to the Amherst Survival Center. This year, they hope to raise money for the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega’s food pantry.

Group raises money for the cause by selling challah

Samantha Price, vice president of UMass’s Challah for Hunger chapter and psychology senior, explained how the cohort is trying to collect the materials the administration is putting out there for students facing this issue.

"Our first task for the cohort was to create a resource guide for undergraduate or graduate students who are on campus. We've found a lot of off-campus food choices but not as many on-campus and we are finding that it is hard to find the on-campus resources,” Price explained.

Approximately 20 to 30 percent of UMass undergraduate and graduate students struggle with food insecurity.

"For students that are facing this issue, they are not alone. Hundreds and thousands of students across the United States are facing this issue and so many students at UMass are also in that fight with them," Sternklar said. "There are people trying to help."

Most of the resource guide is information compiled from internet research. However, they found the best materials after they attended a panel on campus about food insecurity and talked to student groups.

"It definitely seems like the students feel more empowered to take control of this issue rather than the administration and adults on campus,” Sternklar said.

As the semester goes on, the resource guide will be updated. "Our resource guide that we are creating is still growing and I don't think we will ever really be done with it…We are always adding to it," Price said.

At this time, the resource guide is available to UMass students and can be found here. It includes information on the location of food pantries, available emergency aid funds and scholarships and meal plan sharing programs.

The CfH chapter will host four bakes throughout the fall semester. The first dough making night was on Oct. 3 and the first braiding and baking night will be on Oct. 4. The challah will be sold at the Campus Center on Oct. 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $3 a loaf. Flavors will include plain, plain with sugar, chocolate chip and their special fall flavor, apple cinnamon.

During these sessions where the challah is prepared, 10 to 20 volunteers usually help in the basement of the Hillel House. This semester, Sternklar and Price hope to include an advocacy portion to these events so volunteers understand why these events take place and the underlying issues.

CfH will be selling challah on Oct. 25, Nov. 8 and Nov. 29 with dough making and baking events on the Wednesdays and Thursdays of those weeks. Dates for spring events will be announced at a later time.

The group will donate all of their proceeds to nonprofit organizations.

Additionally through CfH, a cohort called the Campus Hunger Project was created, where they plan to take more initiative and create more of their own individual projects to help fight food insecurity. In the cohort are 11 students from 10 different campuses around the country.

“No student should have to choose between buying their textbooks and paying for food,” said Miriam Lipschutz, Program Manager for the Campus Hunger Project, in a press release. “Challah for Hunger is committed to supporting our student leaders in advocating for change on their campuses to help ensure neither they nor their peers experience lack of food as a barrier to succeeding in their education.”

According to the Challah for Hunger website, the project began in 2004 by a student at Scripps College. Thousands of Jewish students currently participate on over 80 college campuses across North American, the United Kingdom and Australia and “gather on a regular basis to continue the centuries-old tradition of baking challah together and practicing tikkun olam in an inclusive environment.”

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at acharpentier@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.

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