‘Challah’ if you want to stop world hunger

Since August, students Lisa Kaplan and Natalie Carmeli have been meeting nearly every day to work out the logistics of starting a chapter of a national organization called Challah for Hunger at Binghamton University.

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On Thursday, Feb. 26, the two are set to have their vision realized when they begin selling loaves of challah, the traditional Jewish bread, in the New University Union. Half of the proceeds will be donated to an international fund that sends aid to Darfur, the other half to Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, better known as CHOW, a prominent local charity.

“For me personally, it feels great to start a new organization that’s hopefully going to carry on for years to come,” said Kaplan, a senior art and psychology major who is an assistant design manager for Pipe Dream.

Loaves of bread will be available weekly from 2 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays in the New Union. Regular loaves will be $4, while chocolate chip and other special varieties, to be determined weekly, will cost $5.

A sample of the bread will be available starting this Thursday, Feb. 19, at the same time. There, preorders for next week’s bread can be placed. Customers who place preorders this week, or any week, will receive one free loaf for every four they preorder. Preorders can be picked up at the table on Thursdays or on Fridays in the Hillel office.

Preorders can also be placed this week from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow at Hillel’s table in the New Union.

Challah for Hunger, a national organization with a dozen collegiate chapters, seeks to promote awareness and financial support for hunger and disaster relief worldwide. Kaplan and Carmeli, a senior with an individualized major, met through Binghamton’s Hillel chapter and heard about Challah for Hunger through internships they held.

At the start of the fall 2008 semester, the two started the groundwork for bringing a chapter to BU.

“We watched a video about Darfur and didn’t know much about it, all these people suffering,” Kaplan said. “It touched us and we wanted to do something about it. And baking challah is also something fun to do.”

Through the cooperation of Sodexo and Hillel, which is providing the financial support for the baking as well as the rabbinical oversight to ensure that the bread remains Kosher, Kaplan and Carmeli were able to get the project off the ground. Sodexo donated an oven to be used exclusively for the challah, a necessity for the bread to be certified Kosher, as well as the preparation space in the Physical Facilities bakery, where breads and other baked goods for campus dining halls are produced.

On Wednesday afternoons volunteers will braid and prepare the bread before refrigerating it for the night. The bread will then be baked starting at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday mornings. Kaplan said that by baking the loaves just hours before they go on sale, freshness is ensured.

At the Challah for Hunger table, customers will also be able to complete an “Act of Advocacy,” an opportunity facilitated by New York Public Interest Research Group, which includes getting in touch with a local representative or signing a petition. Customers who do so will receive $1 off their purchase.

Kaplan and Carmeli are still refining the details, hoping to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. Kaplan said she is not yet sure what the demand for the bread will be, but that she was encouraged by the chapter’s Facebook group, which had over 180 members as of yesterday. Hillel, she said, has also helped to promote the group’s effort.

And not to worry: if there are any leftover loaves, Kaplan said she’s looking into getting them donated, possibly to CHOW.

“There’s so many things to figure out,” Kaplan said. “I’ve been really busy, but it’s been really fun. Everybody’s telling us how great this is and how excited they are for us.”