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Challah for Hunger has Shaped Me, How Will I Continue to Shape It?

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This story comes to us from Challah for Hunger, a not-for profit organization with over 75 active chapters around the globe, mostly based on university campuses, that bakes and sells challah bread and uses the proceeds to support social justice causes.

Liz Smulian is the incoming Board Chair of Challah for Hunger. She has her Master’s degree in Public Health from Emory University and is passionate about reducing health disparities. She is currently completing an ASPPH Fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

As part of Challah for Hunger's Alumni Campaign, Liz shares thoughts about her experience and vision for Challah as a former chapter leader and now Board Chair. Learn more about Challah for Hunger alumni here.

“How many cups of flour have you added?”

“Did we add the salt to this bowl yet?”

“Can you pass the yeast?”

“Who is volunteering for the next baking shift?”

Every other week, amidst the sounds of baking pans clattering and friends laughing, I would hear these questions bounce around the busy kitchen of the Emory University chapter of Challah for Hunger.

Being a chapter leader meant being extremely organized to make sure that whenever we baked, we would be able to successfully recruit baking volunteers, make 50-70 loaves of challah, transport the bread safely to the center of campus, and coordinate volunteers to sell our loaves and raise funds for the local and global causes that our chapter supported. Ensuring smooth operations was a huge part of having a successful week at Challah for Hunger at Emory.

And yet, that wasn’t enough to really “succeed.” Challah for Hunger isn’t just about the baking.

To really thrive, our chapter had to be engaged in advocacy efforts and go beyond our kitchen to actually fulfill our mission. Being a part of Challah for Hunger at Emory helped teach me how to be an effective advocate and how to get people fired up to fight injustice.

It taught me about the power of collective action and collective giving, but also about the power of a one-on-one conversation, perhaps with a stranger on campus, over a loaf of challah, about genocide relief, food insecurity or any cause worth fighting for.

I can say without pause that Challah for Hunger shaped who I am today and helped springboard me into my current career in public health. I gravitated towards public health midway through college to pursue what I loved about being an activist at the challah sales table.

Being a chapter leader introduced me to a holistic way of thinking about social justice work, and also prepared me professionally with organizational and leadership skills.

In short, being involved with Challah for Hunger was a transformative experience for me.

Beyond just my own chapter experience, I’ve watched the Challah for Hunger network grow enormously over the past several years and have seen my friends at other chapters have similar experiences to my own. The number of Challah for Hunger volunteers and leaders who get to experience the thrill of hands-on entrepreneurism, activism and philanthropy is at an all-time high, thanks to more than 75 chapters in our global network.

But beyond our campuses, there are still a tangle of social injustices and issues that need to be brought to light. Equally important, or perhaps even more important than the work we do on campus, is the work that begins once we leave our chapters.

I hope that we as Challah for Hunger alumni take what we learn in our chapters and continue to find ways to creatively integrate passion and fun with doing good, wherever life takes us.

I also hope that we as alumni can continue to stay engaged with the organization. As the Challah for Hunger network grows, we have the privilege of increasing our collective giving and our collective advocacy through our chapters, but we also want to continue to challenge ourselves to ask what Challah for Hunger looks like beyond the college campus.

What does the future hold for Challah for Hunger and how do alumni factor into this vision? How can alumni continue to work with Challah for Hunger to give globally and give locally? As incoming Board Chair, I’m excited to continue to facilitate these conversations about the future growth of this remarkable movement of young adults striving to “bake a difference.”

In the midst of the excitement of a growing movement, I also relish the times when I find myself in my kitchen at home, hands gooey with dough, flour all over my clothes, being in the moment and braiding that perfect challot. The smell of baking challah makes me feel connected all at once to my great-great-grandparents, my mother, my friends from the Challah for Hunger family and the greater communities that Challah for Hunger supports in many ways.

I grew up loving challah, but more than anything, I love what it represents to me now. Challah is an agent of change—and that in itself is delicious.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.