World Food Day: How One Meal a Day Can Help the World’s Poorest Children

Millions of children in the world’s poorest areas are still left starving, despite being fed.

Up to 50 million people in 45 countries are right on the edge of famine. The World Food Programme revealed food insecurity affects 345 million people, across 82 countries.

The report has been issued as the world faces its largest food crisis in modern history, with conflict, climate shocks, and the threat of global recession putting millions at risk.

Newsweek spoke to Argyllshire man Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, global charity founder, CEO, campaigner, and author

Man standing
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, from Dalmally near Oban, a Global Charity Founder and CEO of Mary’s Meals.

MacFarlane-Barrow is responsible for the growing charity Mary’s Meals, which feeds up to 2.2 million children per day in schools across 19 countries.

He told Newsweek: “We have a vision that every child in this world should be able to eat at least once a day, and it is possible in a world that produces more than enough food to eat.

“There needs to be a global commitment so kids can eat all over the world, I see the risk at this point when there’s so much uncertainty, there is a temptation to think about ourselves or our own communities: we are forgetting the world’s poorest communities. We can’t leave millions of the poorest behind.

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“I understand the cost of living crisis affects many, but we should all be moved so every child’s story shouldn’t feel like an either/or situation. There is enough in the world for all of us, it shouldn’t be kids competing against one another for resources. There is enough.”

During a trip to Malawi in 2002, Magnus met with a family whose predicament was to spark a change in not only his own life, but the lives of thousands of others.

Lying on the floor of a hut was a mother named Emma, who was dying of AIDS. Her six children were gathered around her and Magnus asked the eldest, Edward, then 14, what it was that he hoped for from life. “To have enough to eat and to be able to go to school one day,” was his answer.

Edward’s words inspired a mission to bring hungry children to school by providing Mary’s Meals.

Ever since, the charity has provided one meal per day to children in schools and there has been a “dramatic improvement in academic performance and attendance.”

Magnus told Newsweek: “We have seen a massive generational change. The purpose of the meal is to focus. It does two things at once: meeting the hungry child’s immediate need and tackling the underlining poverty problem. While enabling children who are too hungry to learn.”

The U.K.-based charity has shared success stories that prove the food is the fuel enabling children in the poorest countries to strive to be something.

‘Some Of Us In Malawi Are Still Suffering’

A success story about a Lette, from Malawi, East Africa, who was orphaned age 11, she is now preparing to graduate.

Lette was orphaned at age 11 and would often go to school with an empty stomach. Mary’s Meals have shared photos and quotes from Lette, who now dreams of becoming a journalist.

Lette, now 22, told Mary’s Meals: “I want to go to college and study journalism so I can find out information and see how things are moving in my country. Some of us in Malawi are still suffering.

“It is so important to send children to class to learn more things like to read and write –
because if they are educated they will change the nation and they can be independent for their own needs and to help their families.”

‘Education Is The Only Way Out Of Poverty’

University student Veronica Chipwanya, 19 was one of the first children to benefit from our school feeding programme in Malawi, more than 10 years ago.

Veronica Chipwanya, 19, was one of the first children to benefit from the school feeding program in Malawi, more than a decade ago.

Her father died when she was a baby and she lost her mother at just nine years old. She remembers how difficult it was to become an orphan at such a young age.

“Back then, my brothers and sisters weren’t working. Sometimes I would go the whole week without food. I was weak,” Veronica explained to Mary’s Meals.

But the promise of a hot meal in school encouraged her to keep attending classes.

She added: “I was doing my best before the porridge, but the food and support from Mary’s Meals improved my performance.”

After completing her primary education, Veronica was selected to attend secondary school in Blantyre and has recently begun a course in Business and Education studies at university.

She told the charity: “A lot of my old school friends are married now. But I want to concentrate on my education because I have suffered a lot and I think education is the only way out of poverty.”

Magnus told Newsweek: “There is a myth that hunger is caused by lack of food, but there is enough food in the world. The reason people face chronic hunger is poverty, they can’t afford to buy the food that is available.

“Food prices are going up, inadequate income isn’t going up, so things are falling over the edge. Poverty is the key driver of hunger: we see in these situations that hunger causes poverty, missing out on education and the ability to develop so they cannot get jobs. It is a cycle that is working both ways.”

Picture top of page: Frances Slorach and her sisters from Dumbarton are staunch supporters of Mary’s Meals.

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