Challah for Hunger Organizers Push to Keep Charity Local

On any given Thursday night, students can be found lining up outside of Pomona College’s Coop Fountain at 9:30 p.m. to wait for warm challah, the traditional Jewish braided bread, when sales start at 9:45 p.m.

Students can use Flex to purchase plain or flavored challah – chocolate, melted throughout the loaf; cinnamon loaves; or my personal favorite, a decadent blend of the two. Each week, Challah for Hunger: Claremont Colleges, or Claremont Challah, comes up with a unique “Flavor of the Week.” This week’s was sundried tomato with manchego cheese. Vegan loaves are also available.

According to Remy Rossi PO ’19, head seller of Claremont Challah, they sell up to 100 loaves in a night.

While Claremont Challah serves all 5Cs, the original chapter was started at Scripps College by Eli Winkleman in response to the 2014 humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Winkleman saw an opportunity to create change.

Their national organization, Challah for Hunger (CfH), became a recognized 501(c)3 charity in 2009, and less than a decade later, has chapters at over 80 campuses in the United States, Australia, England, and Canada.

Today, CfH is based out of Philadelphia and run by CEO Carly Zimmerman. In 2009, Bill Clinton praised the organization in his book.

CfH’s mission is to practice “tikkun olam,” a Jewish concept based on kindness performed to repair the world.

Despite delays due to space constraints, Scripps College’s Challah for Hunger, the original branch, will begin baking for this year on Oct. 19, according to Maddie Bennet PZ ’18, the inventory manager of Scripps Challah.

CfH is a national organization, but Claremont Challah struggles to balance local interests. Each semester, Claremont Challah gives $2000 in profits – half of what is donated each semster – to its parent branch, which forwards that money to charities partnered with CfH. Leaders of Claremont Challah expressed frustration at their lack of autonomy over their own profits.

“We don’t really know what’s happening with that money,” said head baker Kayla Lanker PO ‘19.

Claremont Challah is considering talking with National about spending locally, specifically to 5C organizations and groups in the surrounding area. “It’s doing good work either way, but we don’t feel that much of a connection with National,” said Rossi.

Cally Cochran PO '18, president of Claremont Challah said she's certain CfH’s partners are “super worthy of the money they’re getting,” but she hopes “to be more in charge of where that [money] goes.”

According to the CfH website, 50 percent of campus chapter profits go to MAZON: a Jewish Response to Hunger, while the other 50 percent goes to local groups.

“We’re taking money from this community and pushing it out,” Cochran said. “We want it to go back into the community.”

Claremont Challah has partnered with campus groups including the Draper Center and Wellness peers. Last year, Claremont Challah was a significant donor to the Food Justice Center, donating $2,000. Claremont Challah has also donated challah to Claremont Hillel and collaborated with the Pomona College Organic Farm.

Each semester, Claremont Challah chooses a non-5C theme to donate profits to. This semester, the focus is natural disaster relief. “How it’s worked in the past is we’ve picked one organization to donate all our proceeds to,” Cochran said. Last year, they partnered with Falling Fruit From Rising Women, an organization that provides jobs for women recently released from prison.

This semester, Claremont Challah hopes to build more local partnerships. “[A really big goal] is using our money to make things happen in the [local] community,” Cochran said.

“We have a lot of resources because challah is so popular,” said Rossi. “With that, we can do a lot of good.”

Challah typically sells out, but if not, it never goes to waste. “Last year we did staff appreciation day, so we just walked around the grounds and gave it to groundskeepers,” Lanker said.

“Any surplus challah, which happens every few weeks, goes to targeted groups,” said Rossi. These groups include The Coop Store and dining hall staff.

Pomona’s dining hall staff are a huge help, as Claremont Challah bakes using the Frary Kitchen. "They’re always helping out and asking how we’re doing,” Lanker said.

Although many people are signed up to help, Cochran said that finding bakers remains difficult. “Everyone wants challah, but we need people to help bake or there won't be any.” Those interested in participating should contact claremontchallah@gmail.com.