Rice Bowl helps youth program adapt

Lindsay Steele
Project Renewal summer staff member Katie Binkley leads participants Isaac and Joan in a social-distanced game of Egg and Spoon July 20 in Davenport. Local CRS Rice Bowl funds help fund snacks and meals for participants.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Each year, local CRS Rice Bowl donations help Project Renewal reach out to youths in downtown Davenport by providing funds for snacks and meals. During Project Renewal’s after-school and summer programs, students in grades K-12 are taught life skills, get help with homework and engage in various activities.

The $1,000 received from Rice Bowl this year is helping Project Renewal cope with pandemic-related changes, said director Ann Schwickerath.

The diocese gave $8,270 — 25 percent of Rice Bowl funds collected during Lent — to organizations and programs in southeast Iowa that work to address hunger and poverty. Parishes collected $33,079.33 overall, with the remaining 75 percent going toward CRS Rice Bowl initiatives worldwide. Two organizations also received grants to address systemic factors that lead to poverty and hunger. The Catholic Cam­paign for Human Develop­ment funded those grants from the collection held last November.

The Rice Bowl collection was about half the usual amount, said Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Social Action. However, he sees this total as “nothing short of remarkable,” considering the circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic closed diocesan churches and shut down in-person religious education and social events about halfway through Lent, which meant parishes were not able to do as much to encourage collections. “Parishes had the opportunity to distribute rice bowls, but what was impacted was the ability to make announcements weekly thereafter. It required creativity on the part of parishes. Some allowed parishioners to drive by and drop off collections. Some people mailed in checks.” He noted that many of the parishes with high levels of giving came from communities with local beneficiaries.

Ferris added that the diocesan Social Action office has been looking for grants and other resources that could provide additional help to local beneficiaries of Rice Bowl funds.

Schwickerath said the funds Project Renewal received have helped offset increased food costs due to the pandemic. Because of social distancing protocols, much of the organization’s work has occurred virtually for the past four months.

In the spring, after schools in Iowa closed, Project Renewal partnered with another community organization to send weekly grocery deliveries to program participants in need. For the summer program, students come once a week in small groups rather than everyone coming daily. Along with program materials, students receive ingredients to make snacks at home for days they are not on-site, like peanut butter, chocolate chips and celery for “ants on a log” or apples, peanut butter and marshmallows for “apple smiles.” Buying and packaging ingredients for these kits costs more than buying bulk ingredients to use on-site. But it’s worth it, because youths are better able to focus when their basic nutritional needs are met, she said. Additionally, the food and snacks give families and students one less thing to worry about during this stressful time.

Rice Bowl grant recipients:

The following organizations received a share of $8,270 from diocesan Rice Bowl collections for their efforts to ease hunger and poverty in southeast Iowa:
Camp Excel Leadership Academy, Davenport; Community Action of Southeast Iowa, Burlington; Helping Hands, Knoxville; Henry County Help to Others (H2O), Mount Pleasant; Information Referral & Assistance Services, Clinton; IowaWINs, Mount Pleasant; North Liberty Community Pantry, North Liberty; Project Renewal, Davenport; St. James Parish, Washington; St. Thomas More Parish, Coralville; Table to Table, Iowa City; The Diversity Service Center of Iowa (DSCI), Muscatine.

CCHD grant recipients:
Catholic Campaign for Human Development grants go to organizations that work for systemic change rather than addressing immediate needs related to hunger and poverty.
Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa in Iowa City received a $5,000 grant, while Quad Cities Interfaith in Davenport received $2,500.


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