Millions of Catholics from more than 14,000 parishes, schools and community groups in the U.S. are ready to launch Operation Rice Bowl (ORB), Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) annual Lenten program, on Ash Wednesday, February 6. In advance of the Lenten season, CRS will send out millions of symbolic rice bowls that are used as the focal point for their prayer, fasting, learning, and giving.
Each Lent, participants in ORB put donations into individual cardboard bowls or rice bowls which are collected and donated to projects that alleviate hunger in 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and also the United States. By making a small sacrifice and eating less than they normally would each week, people can donate the money they would have spent on food to support CRS’ mission to fight global hunger.
“Helping people in need through fasting and giving is a big component of ORB, but we also urge people to help others through prayer and by learning about the factors that cause hunger and poverty,” says Beth Martin, Director of Operation Rice Bowl for CRS. “Every year, we highlight the lives of people in five countries who have benefited from ORB to demonstrate the impact these contributions can have.”
Operation Rice Bowl also offers meatless meal recipes similar to those prepared in the featured countries. An accompanying calendar and interactive Web site serve as a guide by providing daily activities, prayers, and traditional recipes from Guatemala, Mali, India, Haiti and Cameroon.
Last year, Catholic Relief Services raised $8 million through Operation Rice Bowl. Seventy-five percent of the money is used to fund food security projects overseas in the areas of agriculture, water and sanitation, education, HIV and AIDS, microfinance, and maternal and child health. The remaining 25 percent stay in U.S. dioceses to support local projects like food pantries and hunger centers.
India, for example, Operation Rice Bowl funds support a school in Calcutta that serves hot meals to orphans and poor students. The school is a refuge to many children who once lived on the street, struggling to survive, who can now rely on at least one good meal every day.
Since its beginning in 1975, ORB has raised more than $167 million to fund CRS’ development projects. With participation in almost every diocese in the U.S., many communities and families have adopted ORB as a way to observe Lent.
To find out which local communities and schools are participating in this year’s campaign, please contact Kim Pozniak at [email protected] or 410.951.7281.
Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic community. The Baltimore-based agency provides assistance to people in more than 100 countries and territories on the basis of need, not race, creed, or nationality.