This week we feature Ana Mendelson, a senior at the University of Virginia and former chapter president. This past year, Ana served as the Challah for Hunger representative to the MAZON Board of Directors. It’s the first time that a CfH leader has served on the board and when we asked, Ana had a lot of great insight from her year of service. Thanks so much to Ana, who will continue to serve on MAZON’s Board after she graduates, for sharing this experience.
Why did you say “yes” to joining the MAZON board on behalf of Challah for Hunger?
It’s hard to believe that I just finished my last MAZON Board meeting as the Challah for Hunger student representative! As a Challah for Hunger leader, it’s easy to get bogged down by the week-to-week operations of our chapters – counting cups of flour or worrying about having enough volunteers for pumpkin week. I said “yes” to serving on MAZON’s Board because it gave me the opportunity to think more broadly about solving hunger and consequently, how 70+ college campuses CfH’s are helping in this fight. Knowing the bigger picture leaves me more inspired to deal with week-to-week operations and to ramp up my chapter’s fundraising and advocacy efforts.
What were your expectations of joining the MAZON board?
In my role as a Student Board Member, I expected to listen a lot and learn about MAZON and the anti-hunger movement. What I did not expect was how immediately the Board and Staff would treat me a full Board member and not as a token student voice. They solicited and appreciated my thoughts on not just Challah for Hunger issues, but on strategic planning, communication strategies, and advocacy priorities. Even at my own University, the student representative to the Board of Visitors is not a full Board member with voting rights. Sitting around the table with Rabbis, professionals, and advocates who have been supporting MAZON for decades, I was humbled by the respect and openness I received.
What have you gained personally (skills, opportunities, etc.) from serving on this board?
I gained countless professional skills from this experience, including my understanding of the nonprofit world and anti-hunger work. I learned about the ideal administrative to programmatic spending ratio, the importance of 5 year strategic planning, and the role of a Board of Directors in setting vision for and supporting the staff.
Additionally, my role left me with a clear sense of where the anti-hunger movement is headed. Though I am proud that half of CfH at UVA’s proceeds support our local food bank, I know now that we are never going to food bank our way to a world with no hunger. This past Board meeting, we had the pleasure of hearing from Patti Whitney-Wise, Executive Director of Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon. She offered a historical perspective on hunger. The national food banking system, as my generation knows it to be, is actually a new invention. In the late 70s, hunger was almost eradicated, but as federal programs were slashed in the 80s, the food bank and homeless shelter “industry” boomed because of the increased need. This historical framing really drove home the point that food banks are a reaction to hunger, not a proactive solution. I am proud my chapter supports our local food bank, as emergency food is unfortunately a necessity at this time. However, where MAZON comes in is leading the charge for proactive solutions to hunger. I am proud that thousands of college students are now engaged in this work through Challah for Hunger’s partnership with MAZON.
Why is it important for a member of the Challah for Hunger community to be represented?
Challah for Hunger and MAZON have the potential to form a dynamic partnership. Not only are Challah for Hunger chapters substantial donors (seriously, when I saw the total number of how much we’ve donated as a collective I was so psyched), but we provide unique perspective like how our generation engages in philanthropy and advocacy. We can serve as a resource into the emerging issue of hunger on college campuses. We provide a network of close connections with local anti-hunger organizations around the country. With a CfH representative around the table, our unique perspective as donors and advocates are added to the already rich collection of Board and Staff members at MAZON.
What are you hopes for the next board member?
I am confident that Talia, the next CfH representative, will have a similarly impactful experience as I have had on the Board. With a breadth of leadership experience in Challah for Hunger and an interest in nonprofit management, I know Talia with both learn from this experience and bring fresh perspectives to the table. Thankfully, I was asked to stay on as a Board Member, so I will get to see Talia a few times next year – something I am grateful for as I will be graduating from UVA this May! I am grateful to both CfH and MAZON for making a lasting impact on my undergraduate experience.