Most college kids have run-of-the-mill worries: Grades, internships, social lives. But today, a shocking number also worry about not having enough to eat. According to a Temple University study, 36% of U.S. students attending four-year universities and colleges are food insecure. “And that number is as high as 67% at community colleges,” says Carly Zimmerman, CEO of Challah for Hunger. But through Jewish values and old-fashioned bake sales, the Jewish Federation-supported Challah for Hunger is making a difference in the lives of college students around the world.

“Across the spectrum of Judaism, challah is a symbol of family and values,” says Carly, helping to explain Challah for Hunger’s runaway success: Since its 2004 inception, the organization has sprouted chapters on over 85 campuses, with 10,000 students volunteering every year. Students are drawn in by the mission of tzedakah, but also by the warmth and comfort of baking bread together. In fact, that’s how the organization began — not as a charity, but as a casual baking group hosted by a homesick Scripps College student, Eli Winkelman. Eli’s friends would gather for nights of baking challah, with the group growing bigger and bigger until they decided to sell the challah for a good cause — at the time, to raise awareness for genocide in Darfur. Eventually, as the grassroots group spread, the mission changed to address the urgent needs faced by students on their own campuses.

Through Challah for Hunger’s “Campus Hunger Project,” student volunteers at college chapters across the United States, Canada, Australia and England get together to bake challah. While the dough rises, they discuss local and global hunger issues and advocacy tactics. Then they sell the challah to fellow students, university staff and community members, with the proceeds donated in an even split between MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and a local nonprofit fighting hunger in each chapter’s community. In addition, in communities like Greater Philadelphia, Challah for Hunger has developed the “Social Change Bakery Network,” an off-campus version that brings the same model of baking and conversation into local nonprofits and Jewish institutions, helping teens, families, and young adults with physical and developmental disabilities fight hunger.

Challah for Hunger is always looking for helping hands, through either the Campus Hunger Project or the Social Change Bakery Network. To find out more or to join the Philadelphia volunteer corps, click here. And for a special Challah for Hunger pretzel challah recipe, click here.

Photograph courtesy of Chris Kendig Photography.