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Parishes Educators Dioceses

CRS Rice Bowl FAQ

What is CRS Rice Bowl?

Celebrating its 40th year, CRS Rice Bowl is Catholic Relief Services’ Lenten program for families and faith communities in the United States who want to put their faith into action. Through CRS Rice Bowl, participants are invited to hear stories about their brothers and sisters in need around the world, and devote their Lenten prayers, fasting and alms to change the lives of those who suffer in poverty.
Participants journey through the 40 days of Lent with a collection of daily reflections and activities included in the CRS Rice Bowl calendar and on the mobile app.

How did it all begin?

40 years ago, Catholics in the United States wanted to respond to famine in Africa. Could people who were hungry and starving be helped through Lenten prayers, fasting and almsgiving? The answer was yes—and the help came in the form of a small cardboard box, marking the beginning of “Operation Rice Bowl” 40 years ago in parishes in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Today, CRS Rice Bowl is a tradition for millions of Catholics in the U.S., who employ the Lenten pillars of praying, fasting and almsgiving to change the lives of others while enriching their own. CRS Rice Bowl is available in paper, web and through a mobile app in both English and Spanish.
In 1976, Operation Rice Bowl was adopted by the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops as a national program. In 1977, they voted to make Operation Rice Bowl the official program of Catholic Relief Services.

How many parishes participate in CRS Rice Bowl?

In 2014, 13,405 Catholic parishes and schools across the U.S. participated in CRS Rice Bowl.

What is a CRS Rice Bowl?

A cardboard or homemade CRS Rice Bowl is a tool for collecting your Lenten alms. Rice Bowls can be ordered in quantities of 25 from or 1-800-222-0025 for free. The CRS Rice Bowl app also allows you to create a virtual Rice Bowl on a mobile device. The app is available for both Android and Apple devices.

Where can I get a CRS Rice Bowl?

Dioceses, parishes and schools around the country order CRS Rice Bowls and Lenten calendars for their communities. Check with your parish or school to find out when CRS Rice Bowls will be distributed.
Individuals who are not associated with a Catholic parish or school can download a Rice Bowl template to make their own Rice Bowl. There is also a mobile app that has a ‘virtual’ Rice Bowl along with a full collection of videos, recipes, reflections and a collection of Stories of Hope from people around the world whose lives have improved by programs funded through CRS Rice Bowl.

Besides the cardboard box, what are the main components of CRS Rice Bowl?

All CRS resources are available in paper, on the and websites and on the mobile app available for both android and apple devices. The most popular resources are the daily reflections, Stories of Hope, meatless international recipes from the countries featured each Lent and the video collections. All materials are available English and Spanish.

How much money has CRS Rice Bowl contributed to prevent hunger and poverty around the world?

In 40 years, $250 million have been given through CRS Rice Bowl to support programs that prevent hunger and poverty around the world. Of that, $62.5 million went to programs in the U.S. through local dioceses and $187.5 million went to CRS programs overseas.

How many countries benefit from CRS Rice Bowl?

Each year CRS Rice Bowl funds are directed to between 40 and 45 countries where CRS runs humanitarian programs.

How is the money used?

Lenten alms go to alleviate hunger and poverty in communities overseas and in the U.S.: Seventy-five percent of gifts support CRS’ humanitarian programs around the world, including in the countries featured in the Lenten calendar. Some examples include:
Agriculture projects help farmers improve harvests
Water and sanitation projects bring clean water to communities
Microfinance projects support small businesses
Mother and child health projects offer health and nutrition services
Education projects provide resources and training
25 percent of gifts remain in each U.S. diocese where they were given for hunger and poverty alleviation efforts in those communities. Each diocese uses this differently. Contact your local CRS Diocesan Director to find out how the local 25 percent is used in your diocese.

How do CRS Rice Bowl gifts get to CRS?

Check with your parish or school about how your community will be collecting donations and return your Rice Bowl on the designated collection date.
Lenten gifts can also be given online, or on the CRS Rice Bowl app, or simply send a check to:
Catholic Relief Services
CRS Rice Bowl
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, Maryland 21297-0303
25 percent of gifts given directly to CRS will be returned to the local diocese where they originated.

What’s new for 2015?

New on Video:
Gertruda The Soy Bean Farmer – A short video for children based on the Story of Hope from Tanzania.
CRS Rice Bowl Global Kitchen with Fr. Leo Patalinghug – Five, 3-minute cooking shows, hosted by chef Fr. Leo Patalinghug, featuring simple, meatless recipes for Lent provided by CRS staff working in the countries featured in this year’s Rice Bowl stories.
What is Lent? – A unique series of eight brief and compelling statements from some of the leading and most well-known Catholic figures in the U.S. today, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan from New York; Archbishop Gomez from Los Angeles; Christopher West Catholic author and speaker; and Fr. James Martin Jesuit priest, author and editor at large for America Magazine. Each speaks on a different aspect of Lent: Why do we fast? What does Lent call us to do? Why do we pray more often during Lent?
New Online Resources:
Youth in Solidarity Reflections: A guide for high school classes and youth ministries with educational modules that offer activities, reflections and prayers to bring Lent to life for youth.
Community Reflections: A guide for adult and young adult groups that prayerfully walks through the themes of Lent and reflects on the realities faced by our brothers and sisters in need worldwide.
2015 Featured Countries, Stories and Recipes
Tanzania: February 22–28
Theme: Hungering for a Better Life
Recipe: Ugali with Bean Soup
Nicaragua: March 1–7
Theme: Hungering for a Bountiful Earth
Recipe: West African Peanut Stew
Niger: March 8–14
Theme: Hungering for a Season of Hope
Lebanon: March 15–21
Theme: Hungering for Peace
Recipe: Fattet Laban
Democratic Republic of Congo: March 22-28
Theme: Hungering for a Healthy Harvest
Recipe: Fried Plantains with Beans
United States – Diocese of Albany: March 29-April 4
Theme: Hungering for Seeds of Home
Featured story: The Garden of Feedin’
CRS Rice Bowl App 2.0
The CRS Rice Bowl app is designed to bring Lent within reach through a mobile device. Introduced in 2014, the app has new features this year including:
• The full collection of stories, daily reflections and video series.
• A tool to set and measure Lenten sacrifices.
• A built-in feature to share Lenten experiences with text and photos through Twitter.
• Available in both English and Spanish.

What is Catholic Relief Services?

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States.
Created in 1943, CRS’ work is motivated by the example of Jesus Christ to assist poor and suffering people in 93 countries on the basis of need, without regard to race, religion or nationality.
CRS is efficient and effective. In 2013, 92 percent of our expenditures went to CRS programs that benefit poor people overseas. CRS’ programs touch more than 100 million lives.