CRS’ Lenten Rice Bowl program to help feed the hungry amid COVID pandemic

Rice bowl Credit Steven Depolo via Flickr CC BY 20 CNA Steven Depolo via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Catholic Relief Services is asking Catholics this Lent to remember those affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by participating in the annual CRS Rice Bowl campaign.

“As the world continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, including an increased number of those going hungry, Catholic Relief Services is asking Catholics to remember Matthew 25:40,” the agency said in a statement.

“As the gospel tells us, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ This verse calls on Catholics to reach out and help those most in need.”

CRS Rice Bowl is a Lenten program that began in 1975. The annual initiative encourages Catholics to fast, pray and give alms during Lent, collecting donations in cardboard bowls to be distributed to various charitable initiatives.

Seventy-five percent of the alms collected through the program support worldwide relief initiatives. These include agriculture projects to improve harvests, sanitation projects to provide communities with clean water, and microfinance projects to help small businesses. Supported global initiatives also include education projects and mother and child health projects that provide health and nutrition services.

The remaining 25% of the money raised goes to support hunger and poverty relief efforts within the contributor’s local diocese.

Beth Martin, CRS’ director of campaign action and content, said this program is deeply connected to the Lenten idea of sacrifice.

“Using CRS’ Rice Bowl materials, Catholics here in the United States have the ability to turn that sacrifice into a gift,” she said. “By giving something up, like that daily cup of coffee, and putting that money into the Rice Bowl donation box, Catholics can go a step above and beyond and look out for the least of our sisters and brothers.”

This year, Martin said, the donations are particularly important, as the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting economies, employment, and food rations in countries where much of the population is already living in poverty.

In addition to promoting COVID-19 awareness, Catholic Relief Services works with partners in over 30 countries to provide emergency food supplies.

“The donations from CRS Rice Bowl allow families everywhere to overcome the hurdles placed in front of them,” Martin said. 

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“And in the past year, there have been a lot. COVID-19 is increasing global hunger and malnutrition, and several natural disasters have left thousands without a home or without crops to feed their families and communities. Everyone everywhere has struggled.”

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