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Mary’s Meals reaches one billion milestone

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Glasgow charity celebrates global success

Global hunger charity Mary’s Meals has reached the milestone of serving one billion school meals to impoverished children around the world.

The billionth meal was served to 12-year-old Mohsin, at the Sangam Vihar Informal Education Centre in Noida, India.

Mohsin and his classmates were served vegetables and rice – the typical meal prepared by the charity for children in India – after which they celebrated the joyful occasion with dancing and songs.

Mary’s Meals began by feeding just 200 children at a school in Malawi in 2002, but has since grown into a global movement providing food to more than 1.2 million children across 14 countries every school day.

Founder and chief executive Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow said: “While Mary’s Meals isn’t really driven by big numbers, this is a remarkable milestone. One billion meals served.

“That’s a number almost too big to comprehend and one that has been reached simply by focusing on one child, one meal at a time.

“Every one of those meals is the result of a series of little acts of love carried out by a chain of people all over the world – volunteers who raise awareness and fundraise, people who donate money, those who pray for our work and, of course, the army of local volunteers who cook and serve for the children in their own communities.”

In India, which is home to a third of the world’s poor, and where more than six million children of primary school age are out of school, the promise of Mary’s Meals is transforming lives.

Mohsin lives with his parents and five siblings in the impoverished slums of Sangam Vihar. Due to his mother’s illness, Mohsin sells rat poison at the local market after school to help support his family. Like so many children around the world, Mohsin relies on Mary’s Meals for a guaranteed daily meal each school day.

“I wake up in the morning and sometimes there is no food,” Mohsin says. “I get ready, wash myself and go to school. In school, we are guaranteed food. From the food, we get strength, we get energy. It’s like life comes back to my body! We are able to study.”

In India, meals are served in both formal and informal education centres, like the one attended by Mohsin and his friends. These informal classrooms – including railway platforms and people’s homes – give vulnerable children the chance to learn and work towards a brighter future.

By providing a daily meal in a place of education, chronically poor children are encouraged into the classroom where they can gain a basic education which can, in future, provide an escape route from poverty.

MacFarlane-Barrow added: “While we celebrate this milestone, we do so painfully aware that more than 61 million children are still out of school because of poverty and hunger – working, begging or doing whatever it takes to survive – and therefore missing out on the education that can be their escape.

"Our vision, that every child in this world might enjoy at least one good meal every day in their place of education, burns more brightly than ever and in many ways our work has only just begun.”