Frequently Asked Questions about CRS Rice Bowl

1. 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 sisters and brothers 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 Lenten Calendar.

CRS Rice Bowl and resources are available in print and digitally, in both English and Spanish.

2. What is the history of CRS Rice Bowl?

Almost 5 decades ago, Catholics in the United States wanted to respond to famine in Africa. Could people who were hungry be helped through Lenten prayers, fasting and almsgiving? Yes! 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.

In preparation for the 41st Eucharistic Congress in 1976—which explored the Eucharist and the hungers of the human family—Operation Rice Bowl was adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a national program. In 1977, they voted to make Operation Rice Bowl the official program of Catholic Relief Services.

Today, CRS Rice Bowl is a tradition for millions of Catholics in the U.S. who continue to answer the call of supporting families experiencing hunger around the world.

3. How many communities participate in CRS Rice Bowl?

In 2023, nearly 13,000 Catholic parishes and schools across the U.S. participated in CRS Rice Bowl.

4. 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. If you don’t have a CRS Rice Bowl, you can make your own by printing the DIY label on the family page and adhering it to a container.

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

CRS Rice Bowl bilingual posters and rice bowls can be found and ordered at Additional resources for families, dioceses, educators, parish leaders and young people can be found on the and websites. Most materials are available in English and Spanish.

Other key resources are the daily reflections, Stories of Hope, meatless recipes from the countries featured each Lent and our video collections.

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

Since its inception, more than $330 million has been given through CRS Rice Bowl to support programs that prevent hunger and poverty around the world. Of that, $82.5 million went to programs in the U.S. through local dioceses and $247.5 million went to CRS programs overseas.

7. How many countries benefit from CRS Rice Bowl?

Each year, your donations help support the work of CRS in more than 120 countries around the world.

8. How is the money used?

Lenten alms go to alleviate hunger and poverty in communities around the world and in the U.S.: 75% percent of gifts support CRS’ International humanitarian programs, including in the countries featured in the Lenten calendar. Some examples include:

The other 25% 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% is used in your diocese.

9. 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 5200

Harlan, IA 51593-0700

Twenty-five percent of gifts given directly to CRS will be returned to the local diocese where they originated.

10. 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 120 countries on the basis of need, not creed, race or nationality.

CRS is efficient and effective. In 2022, 94% of our expenditures went to CRS programming that benefits people experiencing poverty around the world. CRS’ programs touch more than 250 million lives.