More than 40 years ago, U.S. Catholics wanted to respond to famine in Africa. That was the beginning of “Operation Rice Bowl,” created by Catholic Relief Services as a Lenten program for American families and faith communities who want to put their faith into action.

Today, the CRS Rice Bowl is a tradition for millions of Catholics who recognize that the Lenten pillars of praying, fasting and almsgiving can change the lives of others while enriching their own.

Operation Rice Bowl was adopted in 1976 by the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops as a national program. The following year, Operation Rice Bowl became the official program of Catholic Relief Services. In 2015, more than 13,000 Catholic parishes and schools across the U.S. participated in CRS Rice Bowl.

In the 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. and $187.5 million went to CRS programs overseas.

Lenten alms go to alleviate hunger and poverty in communities worldwide through these and other efforts:

  • 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

Dioceses, parishes and schools around the country order CRS Rice Bowls and Lenten calendars for their communities. In the Diocese of Orange, parishes and schools distribute cardboard CRS Rice Bowls as tools to collect Lenten alms. But the CRS Rice Bowl also is available on the web and through a mobile app in both English and Spanish. Using the CRS Rice Bowl calendar and mobile app, participants journey through the 40 days of Lent with a collection of daily reflections and activities.

CRS Rice Bowls also can be ordered free of charge in quantities of 25 from crsricebowl.org/order or 1-800-222-0025. The CRS Rice Bowl app also allows users to create a virtual Rice Bowl on a mobile device. The app is available for both Android and Apple devices.

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. To write to Catholic Relief Charities, use this address: CRS Rice Bowl, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore MD 21297-0303.