- Candace Neff Director
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Operation Rice Bowl A Lenten Tradition
Operation Rice Bowl (ORB), Catholic Relief Services annual Lenten program that begins on Ash Wednesday (which falls on February 17 this year), offers Catholics in the United States an opportunity to learn about our brothers and sisters living in poverty. Begun in 1975 in the Diocese of Allentown, PA as a response to the drought in the African Sahel, ORB has embraced four basic components which call for participants to 1) pray with their families and faith communities; 2) fast in solidarity with those who hunger; 3) learn about our global community and the challenges of poverty overseas, and 4) give sacrificial contributions to those in need. Each Lent, Catholic families, parishes and schools use symbolic rice bowls during the 40 days of Lent as the focal point for their prayer, fasting and learning. Participants fast in solidarity with those who hunger and make the small sacrifice of preparing simple, meatless recipes from developing countries each week, putting the money they would have spent on a bigger meal into the rice bowl. The money then goes to support CRS mission to fight global hunger. Last year, Catholics raised more than $7 million through ORB. Seventy-five percent of those funds were used to address hunger in 40 countries. The remaining 25 percent stayed in the U.S. dioceses to support programs that help those affected by rising food prices in our communities. In 2009, approximately $76,000 was raised in the Diocese of Gaylord, of which nearly $19,000 was given as grants to 35 parishes whose requests were approved. The benefactors of these local funds included northern Michigan food pantries, St. Vincent De Paul Societies and soup kitchens and a variety of parish-based outreach ministries. Since its beginning 35 years ago, Operation Rice Bowl has raised more than $167 million to fund development projects around the world and in local diocesan communities in the United States. The proceeds that are received by Catholic Relief Services are used to increase food security in communities in over 40 countries around the world:
- Agriculture projects help farmers improve crop yields.
- Water projects bring clean water to communities
- Microfinance projects encourage the growth of small businesses.
- Mother and Child Health projects provide basic health and nutrition services.
- Education projects provide resources and training.
- HIV/AIDS projects support the local Catholic Church in communities around the world in addressing the many needs of people affected by this disease.