New grant process to expand CRS Rice Bowl funds’ local impact

| February 25, 2016 | 0 Comments


Participants in Catholic Relief Services’ annual Rice Bowl initiative know their donations are helping people around the world, but they may not realize that they’re also helping people around the corner, said Deacon Mickey Friesen, director of the Center for Mission in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Each year, one-fourth of Rice Bowl donations stay in the archdiocese to fund local food programs for people in need. Prior to 2015, the archdiocese administered the program and transferred 25 percent of funds collected to Catholic Charities. Last year, Rice Bowl administration transitioned to the Center for Mission. In November, it provided more than $19,000 to Catholic Charities for three programs: the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul and the Opportunity Center and Northside Child Development Center in Minneapolis. It expects to provide an additional $5,000 from local funds sent directly to CRS that did not pass through the archdiocese.

RB-ENG-LOGOThe Center for Mission plans to expand the funds’ local reach through a small grant program. Deacon Friesen expects Catholic Charities to continue to receive a portion of the funding, but hopes Catholic parishes and schools with food shelves, or other food-related programs for people in need, will apply. Applications will be available in March and due May 16.

Known as Operation Rice Bowl until 2012, the 41-year-old Lenten initiative funds CRS food programs in 40-45 countries and the United States through the funds that stay in dioceses.

“It’s basically a way to experience Lent through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It’s a way of being connected in solidarity with the rest of the world,” he said. “Supporting people with hunger and food security issues is really what drives the program. . . . It gives us a way to pray, to fast, to share.”

The initiative includes a paper bowl or box to hold participants’ donations. In the Friesen household, the box sits on the dining room table. In past years, the family took advantage of online materials CRS offers — simple, meatless recipes from countries where CRS serves, along with the stories of the people the organization has helped there. On Friday nights, they’d prepare a meal, watch a video about CRS’ work in the country where the recipe originated, and pray or share a reading from CRS materials. Now that the two Friesen children are adults, the family is donating the money they’re saving from Lenten sacrifices, Deacon Friesen said.

“Anytime you can put a face on things [helps]. It’s not just issues, these are people who have families who look and act like us. They have the same hopes and dreams,” he added. “As Lent is about learning how to see with the eyes of faith, this is a great way to help us see people, see our neighbors.”

The Center for Mission has distributed almost 44,000 Rice Bowls in the archdiocese this year. Last year, 123 local parishes, schools and Catholic institutions participated, and donations totaled $97,713 — $27,000 more than the local Rice Bowl collection in 2012. In its first 40 years, CRS Rice Bowl has collected more than $250 million to alleviate hunger and poverty.

Catholic Relief Services is the U.S. bishops’ humanitarian arm.

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Category: Local News