Scottish charity Mary’s Meals is now feeding more than two million kids in schools worldwide.
The venture that started in the garden shed of founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow in Dalmally in Argyll is supplying food in schools worldwide to more than twice as many children than are currently living in Scotland.
The latest landmark means the reach has doubled in size in six years and is still expanding fast in some of the poorest countries in the world, even throughout the pandemic.
Magnus said the efforts to feed the world’s children will not stop until hunger has been eradicated.
He said: “When we celebrate this landmark it’s not a final destination, it’s something that points us to the next school and to the next child.
“So two million could become four million, could become more.
“I can’t think of one good reason why any child in this world would go a day without a meal at school. And in this world of plenty there should be nothing inevitable about children being hungry and being in school.
“We want to see, ultimately, governments, in those countries where we serve the meals, take this on when they can and do it themselves, and that we are no longer required. That’s the long-term vision but we know that’s not going to happen tomorrow.”
The latest count confirmed Mary’s Meals, which also works with Scots kids, were giving a daily nutritious meal to 2,058,099 children in 19 countries.
The landmark achievement will be officially celebrated on Wednesday, September 8, in the remote desert region of Turkana, Kenya.
The charity has 800 paid staff and many thousands of volunteers in many African countries as well as India, Thailand, Madagascar, Syria, Lebanon and Haiti.
Many nations have been beset by war and natural disasters, leaving an impoverished population in crisis.
Eleven-year-old Gift attends Kabila Primary School in Zambia.
Before Mary’s Meals reached Gift’s school, he would often skip lessons and go scavenging for food. Now, even when there is very little to eat at home, he knows that he can rely on a nutritious mug of vitamin-enriched porridge every day at school.
He said: “Before Mary’s Meals came, I would go home during the school day and see if I could find groundnuts to eat. I don’t feel hungry at school anymore. I get energy when I eat the porridge.
Gift’s most prized possession is a tin pencil case, filled with pens, which he keeps tucked safely in his shirt
Gift’s mum is a farmer who scrapes together a living by growing maize and cotton on her small piece of
land in southern Zambia. The rains have been poor this year and the maize crop has failed, leaving her struggling to support her five children.
Magnus said: “Since we set up Mary’s Meals we’ve never ever had to abandon a project for financial reasons, simply because, again, because of the goodness of people all over the world.
“I would say that the most amazing part of our support is Scotland, as the people of Scotland are so unbelievably generous.”
Magnus said desperate tactics were required across the world to combat covid restrictions.
He said: “We recognize that you can, you can suspend school for very good reasons for public health reasons. But you can’t stop feeding kids who are relying on you for a daily meal.
“So a huge amount of work went on very quickly with our teams,local community leaders and public health authorities in different countries to establish ways to feed the kids at home.
Tijanjane, 11, lives in a remote part of rural Blantyre, Malawi, where most families farm for survival.
It’s almost three years since the last good rainfall and drought is making it increasingly hard for them to
make a living.
She said: “I used to have to ask friends to share their food with me. Now, they can look forward to a nutritious mug of porridge when they arrive.
“Normally, I am hungry when I get to school, but I don’t feel hungry when I have eaten my phala (porridge).
“We’ve been remarkably successful because our teams have been amazing and, overwhelmingly, during this time we’ve kept the promise of feeding the children either at school or at home.
“We had so many fundraising events and fundraising activities planned that had to be cancelled and we didn’t know how our income was going to hold up.
“We had to prepare for the worst and consider making some very difficult decisions but actually, what we’ve seen is that our has income held up. And I don’t even pretend to fully understand that more.
“All I can say is that the Mary’s Meals movement has had determination to keep the promise, so great energy went into doing virtual events and these became even bigger events because so many more people could join, virtually.
“We’ve always had confidence in the goodness of people, that’s really what we’ve built everything on. In times when we have people dealing with old and new uncertainties and economic hardship, people have given us even more.”
Magnus said many nations are going backwards rapidly right now.
He said: “Millions of people are slipping into hunger. In Ethiopia, Haiti, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, they’re all facing the most dire predictions of food insecurity and even famine are right now.
“We are deliberately choosing the places where most children are suffering, most acutely, and, that is taking us into places of conflict and natural disaster environments. So it’s even more remarkable what the meals are being delivered in difficult environments.”