Eliminating hunger sounds like a lofty goal. But starting small – and throwing in a little fun – is a good start. In Migdal Ha’Emek, a town in Israel’s North, social worker Dafna Hassan recently led a mother-daughter baking workshop at Ooga-Ooga Bakery. The workshop is part of Colel Chabad’s nutrition security program, designated by the Israeli government to take charge of eliminating hunger among Israel’s neediest.
During the baking workshop, 25 mothers and daughters learned together how to make three different types of healthy cookies and met with a nutritionist lecturer who explained proper nutrition, quantities and distribution of the food groups at each meal and their importance. At the end of the workshop, each participant received a recipe booklet and a box of cookies.
“Using ingredients such as tehina, brown sugar, sesame, and buckwheat, we made healthy cakes and discussed the importance of understanding health to improve one’s life,” Hassan told Breaking Israel News.
For those struggling with poverty, good dietary habits is seldom a major priority but can contribute greatly to one’s health and confidence that translates into many aspects of life.
Explaining the focus on workshops specifically for women, Hassan, who had previously led the baking workshop for 50 women and girls, said, “Women are instrumental to building a community. They are the ones who give security, so we decided to hold this workshop for women and their daughters, strengthening their connection in a fun and educational experience.”
The workshop also afforded the mothers an opportunity to meet other women from different walks of life – both religious and secular.
When asked about the impact that the workshops have in the lives of the women, Hassan became emotional, noting that even a short activity can have a life-long impact “so they can fight both hunger and all challenges in life.”
Colel Chabad offers 243 families food security, maintained Hassan, with other community-building programs including workshops on tzitzit (fringes on the corner of a Jewish prayer shawl) making for dads and sons, couples workshops and cooking classes for Shabbat and daily life.
The organization, she said, also has a growing network of daycare centers in which children of working parents – including many single mothers – can go during working hours, as well as afternoon programs for older children.
In addition, Colel Chabad runs a network of 22 soup kitchens, food cards, discounted supermarkets, and delivered meals on wheels for the homebound, elderly, and disabled.
“Programs like this truly improve the lives of Israelis in need, giving them tools to live a good life and build community,” said Hassan. “I feel like I have been sent on a mission from God to help people in poor economic situations, to help them and offer workshops that can add a lot.”
According to Hassan, the response that she sees to her workshops shows how meaningful and powerful this work can be. “I receive a lot of hugs, thanks, and many tell me how these simple nutrition workshops have made people the authors of their own lives.”
This may not solve all of one’s challenges in life, but for many Israelis living in a cycle of poverty, it is a great first step.
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Written in cooperation with Colel Chabad.