Challah for Hunger continues to spread awareness, raise money

Emily Lin-Jones

Whitman’s Challah for Hunger program is expanding its operations this semester, experimenting with new flavors and holding events to spread awareness about issues in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Whitman’s chapter of the nation-wide non-profit organization was founded last spring by sophomore Talia Rudee. Volunteers bake batches of a traditional Jewish bread called challah in various flavors, ranging from plain to Mexican chocolate to apple cinnamon, and sell them each Friday afternoon in Reid Campus Center for $5 a loaf. Half of the club’s profits are donated to the American Jewish World Service’s Sudan Relief and Advocacy Fund, and the other half to a local organization of the club’s choice: currently the Blue Mountain Humane Society in Walla Walla.

“It’s nice to spread the love, so we keep on switching every year,” said Rudee on choice of local charity. Last year, the club donated half its profits to Helpline, an organization that provides emergency assistance to families and individuals in need.

Challah for Hunger’s treasurer Natalie Pond estimates that the club has raised over $3,000 since it began, a figure she says is impressive considering the club’s relatively small pool of active members.

“Because ASWC is super generous with us, we can donate 100 percent of our profits,” she said. “Considering that we are a smaller organization, it’s kind of exciting to be able to do that.”

The club has added a variety of changes over the past two semesters, including the ability for customers to receive a one-dollar discount by writing a letter to a U.S. senator about the situation in Darfur. Also recently introduced was the option to order bread through campus mail, as well as an experimental “flavor-of-the-week” campaign.

The organization recently saw an influx of new potential volunteers at the beginning of the spring semester, when around 50 students gathered in the Glover Alston Center kitchen to receive their food handlers’ permits and learn how to bake challah.

Challah for Hunger’s growth has allowed it to expand its influence to other activities on campus. The club recently sponsored a showing of the documentary “The Devil Came on Horseback,” about the Darfur conflict in Sudan, on Tuesday, Feb. 28 in Kimball Theater. The screening was followed by a discussion led by Assistant Professor of History Jacqueline Woodfork.

“It was hard last year because we were just focusing on getting baking down and finding enough volunteers to sustain a working club. Now that we’ve done that, we really want to try to . . . work our advocacy more into our club,” said sophomore Marie O’Grady, the club’s vice president.

Assistant Dean for Student Engagement Noah Leavitt, the club’s advisor and frequent patron, had positive words about both the program’s product and its causes.

“My family celebrates the Jewish Sabbath and we’re always looking for a good challah . . . They’re just really delicious,” he said. “The fact that we can be out here in Walla Walla thinking about ethnic cleansing in central Africa is really powerful and shows the constant connectedness that Whitman students have about how we’re part of a wider world, while in addition reminding ourselves that there are hunger needs and troubled people living just down the street from us, and we want to not forget our connection and responsibility to them as well.”

First-year Miriam Moran, who joined last semester, agreed that the organization pairs a good cause with a high-quality product.

“What’s going on in Sudan is a real conflict and it’s important to do what we can to help,” she said. “Our challah is delicious and people should buy it. It’s a good deal. We’re just always looking to keep it delicious.” +