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[caption id="attachment_171885" align="aligncenter" width="1180"]CRS-#LeadNow Photo by Jennifer Hardy/Catholic Relief Services[/caption]

Amid a global food crisis – made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) launched a new campaign aimed at engaging Catholic communities across the United States to support efforts that address global hunger. 

“Lead the Way on Hunger,” kicked off May 14 and is a multiyear effort that calls on supporters to take action through fundraising, advocacy and public awareness-raising activities, including via social media. 

“The shadow pandemic of worsening hunger is playing out in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries,” said Sean Callahan, CRS’ president and CEO. “Now is the time for us to lead the way forward to ensure that these communities have the support they need to make it through this crisis and beyond.” 

[caption id="attachment_171886" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]CRS-#LeadNow Photo by Jennifer Hardy/Catholic Relief Services[/caption]

As a result of widespread restrictions on movement, disruptions to supply chains, and soaring food prices, the pandemic is making it even more difficult for already vulnerable families to access basic necessities. According to the World Food Program, the coronavirus pandemic could increase the number of people suffering from acute hunger by 130 million people. What’s more, it’s estimated that currently, the number of children facing a lifetime of developmental challenges caused by malnutrition exceeds 149 million—more than twice the number of all children in the United States. 

“If we don’t provide adequate food to children now, it will impact them for the rest of their lives,” Callahan said. “The welfare of the next generation hangs in the balance.” 

On Thursday, Pope Francis invited religions across the world to unite in prayer and fasting for the end of the pandemic. During the event, he talked about the secondary impacts of COVID-19. “In the first four months of this year, 3.7 million people died of hunger. There is the pandemic of hunger,” the Pope said. 

As part of the “Lead the Way on Hunger” campaign, CRS is calling on Catholics and others in the U.S. to write to members of their Congressional delegations to advocate for specific bills that help improve food security in poor and vulnerable communities overseas. That includes asking for an additional $12 billion in foreign assistance funding in the next emergency COVID-19 bill. In addition, CRS is urging supporters to spread the word about the campaign through social media and use of the hashtag #LeadNow. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which governs CRS, is calling on Catholics to join in prayer May 24 at noon in recognition of the “Lead the Way on Hunger” campaign. During a virtual campaign press event, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis and a member of CRS’ board of directors, spoke in support of this effort. 

“At this critical time, CRS' ‘Lead the Way on Hunger’ campaign is an important expression of our Church's steadfast commitment to global solidarity, to working for the common good, and to the upholding of human dignity,” he said. “Our brother and sisters around the globe are counting on us. We believe that each life, no matter how vulnerable, is precious.” 

Beyond CRS’ hunger campaign, the organization is building a growing network of CRS chapters across the country. With other partnering Catholic high schools, universities, parishes and dioceses, CRS chapters are also engaging in advocacy and fundraising activities on global poverty issues. 

In reference to the growing movement, Callahan said, “We believe that engaging in these kinds of activities are ways for all Americans to stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters overseas during the COVID-19 global pandemic and beyond.”

[tweet "Stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters overseas during the COVID-19 global pandemic and beyond. #LeadNow By @CatholicRelief"]

[caption id="attachment_171887" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]CRS-#LeadNow Photo by Nancy McNally/Catholic Relief Services[/caption]

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