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Children at school eating Mary's Meals.

How Mary’s Meals Works

Learn how Mary’s Meals reaches children living in the toughest of circumstances and why, under the shadow of a global hunger crisis, our work is more important than ever.

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To help tackle the global hunger crisis, it takes a simple idea that works and Mary’s Meals school-feeding approach generates real, measurable and generational change.

Our solution is simple. Though logistics may be challenging, environments inhospitable and weather systems unpredictable, our raison d’etre remains clear-cut – we serve meals to children in places of education. This gives them a very real incentive to come to class and when they do, they get the nourishment they need to learn and grow.

Still headquartered in a tiny tin shed in an outlying village in Scotland, Mary’s Meals’ reach and impact outstrip our modest size and we now provide meals to 2,279,941 children in 20 countries worldwide. We have always learned – and continue to learn daily – from the communities where we work and we innovate whenever possible, with the next hungry child waiting for Mary’s Meals always uppermost in our minds.

It’s no mean feat to deliver more than 2.2 million servings of food every school day. Since 2002, Mary’s Meals has prepared more than 2.8 billion individual meals, transforming the lives of children who were working, scavenging to make ends meet or just too weak to pursue their dreams and aspirations. Here are some of the reasons why our school feeding model works:

Communities place their trust in us, and we count on them to deliver

Long-term engagement with communities and schools is the main reason why our school feeding programme succeeds. Each community contributes as much as they can to the programme, and they receive unwavering support from Mary’s Meals in return. This three-way partnership is the bedrock of Mary’s Meals school feeding model, without which the delivery of meals to chronically hungry children would not be possible. We've structured our global organisation in a way that deliberately gives autonomy to the communities. Decisions are made locally about how to grow the movement in each country, taking account of their own culture and environment.


Mary's Meals Malawi volunteer cooks smiling with their aprons on.

Hunger is personal for volunteers

Mary’s Meals volunteers give up their time freely because they know that serving meals is saving the lives of their children. For them, hunger is no abstract concept. They feel the ache in their own stomach, witness the distended bellies of their neighbours’ children and endure the terror of waking up with no food to feed their own child. Our volunteers see this daylight robbery of their children’s hopes and dreams and take up arms in any way they can.


A Mary's Meals volunteer preparing food for the children at school.

Reaching children living in the toughest of circumstances

For 20 years, Mary’s Meals has been determined to bring hope to the most vulnerable children wherever they are, and where we can’t do it ourselves, we have partners who can. We have never shied away from testing environments or children who are difficult to reach. In fact, we intentionally seek out the most vulnerable communities that might otherwise be overlooked or forgotten.

Our global network of feeding partners is attuned to the complexities of a country’s geography and political and cultural dynamics. This helps us serve children in places that would be otherwise impossible to reach. They too understand that hunger is not just a result of poverty, but also the cause of it, and will do what they can to defeat it.

The relationships we have generated over our two decades of work allow us to avoid bureaucracy, if need be, working with governments where we can and bypassing them if required to ensure the communities and children are the ones who benefit from our meals.


Children in Malawi eating Mary's Meals

We’re in it for the long-haul

We don’t go into schools thinking “when will be able to leave?” Whilst our over-riding aim is always that communities will become self-sufficient, we are there for as long as we are needed. And communities around the world need us now more than ever.

Mary’s Meals is a simple solution with a core of steely resolution that, even in the most challenging of times, our work won’t stop. But we can’t do it without the support of the whole Mary’s Meals family – staff, volunteers, partners and you.

Every day our amazing supporters give us so many wonderful gifts – whether that’s money, their time, prayers or their knowledge and expertise and we are indebted to every single person for these little acts of love. It is fair to say, however, that with the advent of this unprecedented global hunger crisis, we need funding – and we need it urgently – in order to reach the next hungry child. We’d be enormously grateful for any contribution, however great or small, that you may be able to make. Thank you.

Learn more about our Global Hunger Crisis Appeal and how you can help today.


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