What is CRS Rice Bowl?

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.

How did it all begin?

More than 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” in 1975 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 and web 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 communities participate in CRS Rice Bowl?

In 2019, nearly 14,000 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. CRS Rice Bowls can be ordered free of charge in quantities of 25 from crsricebowl.org/order or 1-800-222-0025.

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 visit our CRS Rice Bowl family page to download helpful resources.

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

CRS Rice Bowl resources can be found and ordered at crsricebowl.org/order; there, we offer materials for educators, parish leaders, youth and young adult ministry and Hispanic ministry. Those resources and many more can be found on the crsricebowl.org and crsplatodearroz.org websites Other key resources are the daily reflections, Stories of Hope, meatless recipes from the countries featured each Lent and our video collections. All materials are available in English and Spanish.

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

In its first 40 years, more than $250 million has 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 operates humanitarian response and development 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:

25 percent of gifts remain in each U.S. diocese where they are given to 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 CRS Rice Bowl on the designated collection date. (Here are some helpful tips for community leaders.)

Lenten gifts can also be given online or simply by sending 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 is Catholic Relief Services?

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States.

CRS is motivated by the example of Jesus Christ to assist poor and suffering people in more than 100 countries on the basis of need, without regard to race, religion or nationality.

CRS is efficient and effective. In 2015, 93 percent of our expenditures went to CRS programming that benefits poor people overseas. CRS’ programs touch more than 100 million lives.