August – September 2022 | Features

Serving up a success

Serving up a success

Mary’s Meals feeds more than two million hungry children in school every day. Rotary clubs across the UK have been supporting the charity’s work.

Mary’s Meals, which started life operating out of a shed in the Scottish Highlands, provides school meals for children living in 20 of the world’s poorest countries – including Yemen, Malawi, Haiti, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The promise of a daily meal attracts hungry children to the classroom, where they receive an education that can, in the future, be their ladder out of poverty.

The charity’s work began in 2002, feeding just 200 children at a Malawian primary school. Last year Mary’s Meals announced that, despite many challenges including the Covid pandemic, it is now reaching two million children around the world with a nutritious meal in school.


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Its most recent expansion is in Yemen in the Middle East, serving nutritious food to more than 4,000 children affected by one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world.

The charity’s impressive growth is fuelled by countless acts of kindness from people from all walks of life, including Rotarians. In the last two years alone, more than 200 clubs across the UK have raised over £130,000 for the charity and nearly 300 clubs have held talks or events about Mary’s Meals.

This includes the Rotary Club of Oadby in Leicestershire which has sponsored a school with Mary’s Meals in Zambia for the last four years. Roger Neuberg, who is a member of the club, also volunteers and helps organise fundraising for the charity.

Roger says: “I first heard about Mary’s Meals about 11 years ago. A representative from the charity came to speak at our District Rotary Annual Assembly and I was blown away by what a brilliant and simple idea it was. I have since become a volunteer for Mary’s Meals and give talks at Rotary clubs in my area.

“Our club does an annual Swimarathon and have held summer garden parties to raise money for Mary’s Meals. Sponsoring a school means that we have a real focus for our fundraising.”

Mary’s Meals has recently expanded to Yemen, where they’re serving nutritious food to more than 4,000 children affected by one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world.

Since the Rotary Club of Oadby has started sponsoring Kasupe Primary School in Zambia, enrolment has increased from 266 to 364 thanks to the promise of a nutritious mug of porridge which is served each school day.

Another club that backs the charity is the Denby Dale & District Rotary Club in West Yorkshire. Malcolm Tagg, who will be District Governor for District 1040 from July, has supported the charity for a number of years as a volunteer and a fundraiser.

He was introduced to Mary’s Meals by a friend and was struck by how much of each donation goes towards feeding a hungry child.

This is an important ethos of the charity which keeps its costs low, ensuring that at least 93% of donations are spent on its charitable activities – made only possible because most of its work is done by an army of volunteers here in the UK and in the communities where Mary’s Meals is served.

Malcolm says: “Knowing that so much of what is raised directly helps the children is a real driver for me, along with the very simple concept of the charity. Providing food to children in school so that they are incentivised to get an education and lift themselves out of poverty is such an effective and practical plan.”

The support of Rotary clubs like Denby Dale and Oadby means that Mary’s Meals is able to continue reaching more hungry children. And the impact of those school meals is impressive.

The promise of a daily meal attracts hungry children to the classroom, where they receive an education that can, in the future, be their ladder out of poverty.

A recent study shows that after five years of Mary’s Meals being served in a school in Zambia the number of children reporting they never worried about hunger rose by 45%.

This includes children like 11-year-old Gift, who attends Kabila Primary School in Zambia.

Before Mary’s Meals reached Gift’s school, he would often skip lessons to go scavenging for food. Now, even when there is very little to eat at home, he knows that he can rely on a mug of vitamin-enriched porridge.

He says: “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.

“I want to make a better future for myself. School is the only way to do that. When I finish school, I want to be a doctor and I want to be in a position where I can help my family.”

Despite the impressive progress of the charity over the past 20 years, it recognises that there is still much work to do to reach the 58 million children out of school around the world today.

It only costs £15.90 to feed a hungry child in school with Mary’s Meals for an entire year so a donation or a fundraiser, no matter how big or small, could give more children like Gift, hope for the future.

To learn more about the work of Mary’s Meals, arrange for a speaker to come to your club or find out how your club can get involved, please visit marysmeals.org.uk or email info@marysmeals.org

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