… One child at a time
Millions of people go to bed hungry every night around the world. The need seems insurmountable but if we start small – by feeding our children – we can break the cycle of poverty and inequality.
There’s enough food for everyone in the world and yet, despite some progress before 2014, hunger has worsened in recent years. Tonight, up to 830 million people will be going hungry to bed.
Conflict, COVID-19, the climate crisis, and a darkening economic outlook have exacerbated the problem. Adding to this already lamentable situation is Russia’s war on Ukraine, which has not only caused deaths and destruction in Ukraine, it shocked commodities markets by disrupting supplies of food and energy.
The situation in Africa is especially desperate. Home to over 1,4 billion, about 20 percent (or 280 million) of the continent’s people suffer from chronic hunger, many of them being children. Africa has the youngest population in the world, with an estimated 650 million children under the age of 18.
It’s not for a lack of food; for the world produces about double its requirement. It’s rather a problem of poverty and inequality.
To make a meaningful difference to hunger, we need to start by feeding the children. A hungry child cannot learn and thrive. And without education, they have no hope of rising above the relentless cycle of inter-generational poverty.
Twenty years ago, Mary’s Meals – an international school feeding scheme – was established to feed school children in food-insecure countries. The charity sprang from the Scottish International Relief charity which was set up after founders Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow and his brother Fergus took aid from their home in Argyll, Scotland, to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, during the 1992 war.
The brothers made 23 road trips to refugee camps in the town during the war, delivering aid to the needy. Medjugorje has been an unofficial place of Catholic pilgrimage since the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared on Apparition Hill in 1981.
Over the years, the charity evolved from building homes for abandoned children in Romania to helping returning refugees in Liberia by setting up mobile clinics, and delivering funding to other projects.
Mary’s Meals was founded in 2002, after a transformational meeting between Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow and a young boy in Malawi. MacFarlane-Barrow had met a mother dying from AIDS, while on a visit to the country during a famine. When he asked her eldest son, Edward, about his dreams, the boy replied that he simply wanted enough food to eat, and to go to school one day.
The charity, which at first fed 200 children in Malawi, now feeds about 2.3 million children in 20 countries daily.
The need is so immense that it might seem overwhelming, but it is not insurmountable. “There is enough food in the world for all of humanity. And there is the potential to produce a whole lot more,” says MacFarlane-Barrow. “People with money do not die in famines because hunger is not caused by a lack of food, but by swathes of humanity being unable to buy what is available.”
Mary’s Meals helps by setting up school feeding programmes in the world’s neediest communities to help break the cycle of poverty.
The charity supplies food grown in local communities, thereby supporting small producers and guarantees them a market, which not only meets the immediate need of the hungry child and makes their education possible, but also enables smallholder farmers to grow more food, assured of fair prices year-round.
Food changes the story.
Together we can make a difference!