Every year during Lent, parishes collect money for the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl, a program focused on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Of the money collected, 75 percent goes straight overseas to fund Catholic Relief Services work helping the poor and vulnerable by responding to major emergencies, fighting disease and poverty, and nurturing peaceful and just societies, while 25 percent remains in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Each year, a few weeks after Easter, the 25 percent that stays locally is distributed to parishes through grants for their own use.

This year with the COVID-19 crisis, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee saw that the greatest need within our local communities had changed and required a new response. They decided to donate the 25 percent portion of the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl donations from the 2019 collection to five local food banks where they saw the most need. A total of $2,000 went to the Riverwest Food Pantry in Milwaukee, $1,000 to the SVDP Food Pantry in Kenosha, $1,000 to the SVDP Food Pantry in Racine, $1,000 to the SVDP Food Pantry in Dodge County, and $1,000 to the Fondy Food Pantry in Fond du Lac. Those donations came from excess funds in the 2019 collection.

Most food pantries get their stock from organizations like Feeding America, Hunger Task Force, and Sheboygan Food Bank – they count on grocers donating their overstock, and food drives from churches and private organizations. Because of the current pandemic, they’ve seen a sharp decline in donations and grocery stores aren’t able to pull from empty shelves, which means that food pantries have to purchase more food than they’ve ever had to before with less money and fewer volunteers.

As food banks and pantries scramble to adjust to the increase in demand amidst dwindling donations and limited supplies, they’re faced with the difficult truth that demand exceeding supply isn’t just numbers on a page, but more people than ever before in our own communities with empty stomachs, waiting. Robert Shelledy, the Director of Dignity of the Human Person and Coordinator of the Social Justice Ministry, said, “Demand is up and everyone is working to try to minimize the amount of contact people have to keep us all safe. Stress is high, but it’s important to us to offer Christ’s love and helping hand now, especially.”

To help, visit and search the Food Pantry Guide and donate to your local food pantry or to donate directly to Catholic Relief Services.