Highland-based charity Mary’s Meals reached a milestone target of reaching in excess of 1.36 million of the world’s poorest children in 17 countries with life-changing daily meals.
In the past six months, the school feeding charity has welcomed an additional 104,308 children – in 199 new schools and education centres – to its global feeding programme.
The figure includes vulnerable, children in prisons in Madagascar, little ones attending nursery in the deserts of northern Kenya, and pupils at five additional schools in war-torn South Sudan.
Mary’s Meals works with impoverished communities to set up school feeding programmes, enabling children – who may otherwise be forced to work, beg or scavenge for food – to attend school and receive a nutritious meal that helps them concentrate on their studies.
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder and global chief executive of Mary’s Meals, said: “It is wonderful that more than 1.3 million children are now receiving Mary’s Meals every day at school.
“All over the world we see that people are sharing what they have so that children might eat.
“I feel humbled each day by people’s goodness – especially by the tens of thousands of unpaid local volunteers who cook and serve these meals.”
For the first time Mary’s Meals has started serving meals in Madagascar, where children as young as eight face malnutrition and appalling conditions in overcrowded prisons.
Mary’s Meals has partnered with Grandir Dignement – an organisation that provides education and vocational training – to feed vulnerable children attending classes in four prisons in the Antsiranana and Antananarivo regions.
Since March this year, the number of children receiving Mary’s Meals in South Sudan, Haiti and Kenya has increased following expansions to the charity’s feeding programmes.
Magnus added: “To have reached so many more children in six months is astonishing. And these are children living in some of the most difficult situations on earth, situations that might even seem hopeless.
“But we know from experience that these meals do not only meet the immediate need of the hungry child, they also enable them to grow up, well-nourished and well-educated, to become the young men and women who will lift their communities out of poverty one day.
“Our vision, that every child in this world receives at least one good meal every day in their place of education, burns more brightly than ever.”
Mary’s Meals began feeding just 200 children in Malawi in 2002.
Today, the charity provides life-changing meals to more than 1.3 million children in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean.
Research shows that in schools where children receive Mary’s Meals, enrolment increases, attendance improves, drop-out rates fall, and children are happier, healthier and do better in class.
To find out more or to donate, please visit www.marysmeals.org.uk.