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School lunch: How Mary’s Meals nourishes young minds worldwide

by Howard LaFranchi CSM Staff writer from WASHINGTON

146724Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder and CEO of Mary's Meals, in Haiti – six months after the earthquake in 2010. Scotland-based Mary’s Meals delivers more than 2 million meals a day to schoolchildren in 19 of the world’s poorest countries.Chris Leslie/Courtesy of Mary's Meals

January 3, 2022

When Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow took a week off from salmon farming in 1992 to drive donated food and supplies across Europe to war refugees in a disintegrating Yugoslavia, he told himself it would be a one-and-done.

Drive a truck 1,700 miles down to Bosnia, deliver basic necessities to displaced families he’d heard were in desperate need, return home to Scotland’s west coast. End of good-deed adventure.

But when Mr. MacFarlane-Barrow returned to the corrugated-metal shed he called home, he discovered a front porch piled high with canned goods, warm clothing, blankets, and more. Neighbors and strangers had learned of his mission to families living through war in a distant part of Europe. And they had kept on giving.

“I looked at that mountain of stuff, and the thought came to me that God had a very different plan for me. It seemed I wasn’t quite done,” he says.

And indeed he was not. Today Mr. MacFarlane-Barrow is founder and CEO of Mary’s Meals, a charity based in Dalmally, Scotland, that delivers more than 2 million meals a day to schoolchildren in 19 of the world’s poorest countries, from Eastern Europe to West Africa and Southeast Asia.

The one-time salmon farmer’s brainchild has even managed to continue providing meals to schoolkids in an increasingly unstable Ethiopia as it slips toward civil war – including in the besieged Tigray region. (Since July, Tigray has been under a humanitarian blockade imposed by the government in Addis Ababa.)

Hunger and poverty, together

The idea behind Mary’s Meals is a simple one: In a world with widespread hunger, and nearly 60 million primary-school-age kids out of school, according to UNICEF, and many millions more living in extreme poverty, take on those challenges together.

To reduce child hunger and tackle poverty at the same time, provide kids with a healthy lunch at school. Kids getting at least one solid meal a day won’t go hungry, and getting that meal at school will allow them to keep studying instead of having to turn to menial jobs to fill a gnawing belly.

146724Courtesy of Mary’s MealsMary and Angelina, two recent nursing school graduates in South Sudan, were able to stay in primary school and continue to high school once Mary's Meals arrived in their schools.

Moreover, kids who stay in school longer are likely to have a better chance of getting a good job and pulling themselves out of poverty.

Indeed, it was a boy named Edward who sparked the idea for Mary’s Meals. Mr. MacFarlane-Barrow met him while delivering food to Malawi in 2002. When asked about his dreams for the future, Edward said simply: to have enough food to allow him to go to school.

The spread of Mary’s Meals around the globe and evidence that its approach is making a difference in hundreds of thousands of young lives has put the organization on the international hunger-reduction map and earned its founder accolades.In 2015, Time magazine named Mr. MacFarlane-Barrow to its list of 100 people making a difference.

Page created on 1/4/2022 12:48:49 PM

Last edited 1/4/2022 1:00:34 PM

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