Mary’s Meals feeds 30% of over 1m Malawian learners; As it reaches milestone of serving more than 2m children in 19 countries

Proud Founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow with some of beneficiary kids

* More than 335,143 children served in Zambia; 125,414 in Kenya and 144,208 in Liberia

* Mary Meal’s founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow to attend virtual celebratory event to be held in Kenya

* It will be broadcast at 8pm CAT and open to all through:

* “When we set out on this path nearly 30 years ago we were overwhelmed by people’s goodness in donating”

By Duncan Mlanjira

International school feeding charity Mary’s Meals programme is now reaching out to more than 2 million children in 19 countries globally with life-changing meals every school day.

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And in Malawi alone, 30% of its primary school population — about 1,043,455 children enjoy being served nutritious meals by this non-profit organization that initially aimed at feeding around 200 children in two Malawian schools in 2002.

In Africa, more than 335,143 children in Zambia are served meals in schools each day; 125,414 in Kenya and 144,208 in Liberia.

Other countries that Mary’s Meals reaches out to hungry school children across four continents include Haiti, India, Syria, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Thailand, Myanmar, Uganda, South Sudan, Niger, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Benin, Ecuador and Romania.


In a statement, Mary’s Meals Account Director, Juliet Tshele said the “the nutritious meals are served in the schools by local volunteers who are determined to help the next generation to build a brighter future”.

“This is a major milestone as Mary’s Meals now has 2 million reasons to celebrate, as it has reached more than two million children across a multitude of countries,” Tshele said.

The celebration of the landmark achievement of feeding 2 million children every school day will be officially announced and celebrated in the remote desert region of Turkana, Kenya, where communities serve the much-needed daily meals to children attending Early Childhood Development centres.

The Founder with some of the volunteers

The virtual celebratory event, which will have Mary Meal’s founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow in attendance, will be broadcast at 8pm CAT and open to all through:

Tshele said one of the children will make the announcement while the charity’s founder is expected to share the charity’s reflections and highlights as well as contributions from hundreds of members of the Mary’s Meals global family.

This landmark comes just six years after reaching the major milestone of feeding one million children each day and the statement quotes MacFarlane-Barrow, founder and CEO of Mary’s Meals, as saying: “Today we celebrate an amazing moment in the Mary’s Meals story. Today, two million children ate Mary’s Meals in a place of education.

“When we set out on this path nearly 30 years ago we were overwhelmed by people’s goodness in donating — and that’s been the story ever since.

“I thank you with all my heart on behalf of each of those children, for every bit of hard work, for every gift given, for all those unique things each person brings to this enormous Mary’s Meals’ table. Thank you, and please let’s keep going forward.

“For every one of those children that ate today, many more are still waiting for Mary’s Meals to come to their school, so we go on. But this happy day shows us that this vision of ours is possible.”

The charity had humble beginnings to say the least: a one-off good deed from a shed in the Highlands of Scotland eventually led to a small school feeding programme in Malawi, aiming to bring vital meals to around 200 children in two schools while they learned.

“Serving daily meals in a place of education helps even the most vulnerable children to attend school and concentrate in lessons, giving them the freedom to learn and the chance to fulfil their potential,” said MacFarlane-Barrow continues to say.

“The charity’s impressive growth is fuelled by countless acts of kindness from people from all walks of life. The growing global movement – which now has fundraising affiliates in more than 15 countries – has allowed the school feeding programme to expand and continue reaching out to children in the greatest areas of need, often working with local partner organisations in more remote or challenging areas.”

In addition, Mary’s Meals not only feeds huge numbers of children attending government-run schools in Africa, but also brings daily meals to children finding hope in non-formal education centres in India; the sons and daughters of vulnerable migrant workers in Thailand; young people engaging in education while awaiting trial in prisons in Niger and Madagascar.

It also feeds children affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria – through feeding programmes in Aleppo and neighbouring Lebanon; and many thousands of young learners in Haiti, which has been plagued by years of political unrest and damage from natural disasters.

Mary’s Meals recently published a five-year impact study showing promising results in reducing child hunger, giving children energy, improving children’s wellbeing and helping more children to access education.

The charity believes that a steady supply of food in school is changing the story for young people who might otherwise be working or begging for their next meal or too worried about hunger to engage in lessons.

Mary’s Meals says this latest milestone has prompted changes to another story – the founder’s bestselling book ‘The Shed That Fed A Million Children’ — which has been fully updated with a new preface, chapter and epilogue and will be published by HarperCollins (in English) September 30, 2021.

The new material charts the journey of the last six years — since the announcement that Mary’s Meals was feeding one million children each school day — and includes reflections on the way the global pandemic played out for the charity and its partners, and the communities serving the meals.

The Founder also gives a harrowing account of conversations with a close colleague working on the front line in Tigray, Ethiopia, to bring assistance and comfort to those fleeing violence across the region.

The public is encouraged to visit to find out more of Mary’s Meals and how to get involved or to order a copy of the Founder’s fully updated book, ‘The Shed That Fed 2 Million Children’.

The average global cost to feed a child with Mary’s Meals for a whole school year is £15.90/US$21.00/ €18.30.

Mary’s Meals is committed to spending at least 93% of donations directly on its charitable activities. This is only possible because most of the charity’s work is done by an army of dedicated volunteers —including more than 80,000 in Malawi alone.

The Founder meeting the Pope

The Mary’s Meals campaign was born in 2002 when Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow visited Malawi during a famine and met a mother dying from AIDS.

What touched MacFarlane-Barrow to found this charity was the response from the mother’s eldest son Edward when he had asked him what his dreams were in life: “I want to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day.”

When schools closed because of the CoVID-19 pandemic, Mary’s Meals continued to reach almost every child enrolled in its school feeding programmes through community distributions of food parcels and essential hygiene items.

This was to ensure that its work wasn’t interrupted during this challenging time  by enabling parents or guardians to cook daily meals for the children at home, in their temporary place of education and reduced household hunger and fear.

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