Hunger knows no borders: Here’s how you can help

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kateri Mancini
For The Visitor

Milk, bread, fruit, cereal — things you can never seem to keep enough of in the house when you have kids. But for Rachel it’s an extra challenge. Dealing with medical issues means an already-tight budget and hungry mouths become even more so for this single Minnesota mom.

Eggs, corn, groundnuts, goat — things you work hard to produce on your farm. But for Habibou it’s an extra challenge.

A recurring season of drought means the blessings of land and hard work are not enough for this Nigerien father.

The two live half a world away from each other, with many differences separating them. Yet, they have something in common: They have both experienced hunger.

The realities of hunger are not something reserved only for those in developing countries, nor are they something we pay attention to only in our own communities. Hunger is both a global and a local issue, affecting our brothers and sisters near and far.

ricebowlOur Catholic faith calls us to action on behalf of those dealing with hunger and poverty. “Driven by our faith, we are committed to help those in need no matter where they may live,” says Catholic Relief Services, the global relief and development agency of the U.S. bishops.

This is why CRS’ Rice Bowl program is so important. As a resource, it shares the stories of those in need around our world, inviting us into solidarity with them. At the same time, as a sacrificial giving avenue, it allows us to affect change by funding hunger relief efforts both globally and within our own diocese.

Seventy-five percent of Rice Bowl funds gathered during Lent go to help with CRS projects around the world, such as helping farmers improve harvests, water and sanitation projects, microfinance and mother and child health and nutrition services. Habibou’s family received help from CRS to dig reservoirs, providing not only water for his crops, but also work and income for him within his own village so that, for the first time in 15 years, he did not need to leave his family to look for supplemental work when food was scarce.

Meanwhile, 25 percent of Rice Bowl monies collected stays local, being distributed as grants to parishes and agencies that submit an application to the St. Cloud Mission Office detailing their work to fight issues of hunger right here in the 16-county area of the St. Cloud Diocese.

Through a grant to her community’s food shelf, Rachel’s family is able to get monthly food assistance; she also receives breakfast and lunch packs for her son during the extra difficult summer months when there isn’t a school meal program. She was even helped with a gift for his birthday.

And Rachel’s was just one of the many families helped through the $30,500 in local Rice Bowl grants that were distributed in 2014. Food assistance, holiday meals and gifts, children and youth programs, clothing, emergency financial assistance for shelter, utilities and transportation, language and living skills and summer meal programs were provided for more than 56,000 people in the diocese.

The assistance is often as simple as receiving a few extra meals to help stretch the budget after job loss, taking in family members, medical situations or help for going back to school. Or it can be as big as providing new tires for an unreliable vehicle to get to work again.

“We are so grateful to the St. Cloud Mission Office and Operation Rice Bowl for the money that was granted to our cluster parish,” said Jen Honek, mission group president of Holy Cross Parish in Onamia, one of the 13 communities to receive a grant last year. “It has been a great blessing.”

Habibou and Rachel live different lives in different parts of the world, yet they have a great deal in common. Both work hard. Both want the best for their children. Both have known the struggle of making ends meet. And both, as our faith tells us, are our neighbors. And, through our generous participation in Rice Bowl this Lent, both may come to know the peace of having enough again.

Visit www.crsricebowl.org to find Rice Bowl resources for your family or parish.

Kateri Mancini is coordinator of mission education for the St. Cloud Mission Office.

How to apply for a local Rice Bowl grant
To apply for local Rice Bowl grants for your community, contact the Mission Office at 320-251-1100 or visit http://mission.stcdio.org to download an application.