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Our story

A volunteer from Zambia serving Mary's Meals to children at school.

Our story

Mary’s Meals is a simple idea that works. Learn more about our journey over the past 20 years.

Our Vision

Mary’s Meals’ vision is that every child receives one daily meal in their place of education and that all those who have more than they need, share with those who lack even the most basic things. Working together with people who share our ideals, we believe that this vision can be achieved in this world where there is enough food for everyone.

The history of Mary's Meals

Mary’s Meals grew out of a charity called Scottish International Relief (SIR), which was set up after Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow and his brother Fergus took aid from their home in Argyll, Scotland to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina during the conflict in 1992.

Over the next 10 years, SIR expanded. It began building homes for abandoned children in Romania, helped returning refugees in Liberia by setting up mobile clinics, and continued to deliver material aid to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as funding many additional projects.

They relied heavily on the generosity of local people in their village of Dalmally in Argyll, Scotland, who diligently donated food, blankets and other items of aid, which were then stored in the family shed. That same shed still serves as the global headquarters of Mary’s Meals – and Magnus’ office as Chief Executive – to this day.

 

Mary's Meals was founded in 2002

The Mary’s Meals campaign was born in 2002 when Magnus, visited Malawi during a famine and met a mother dying from AIDS. When Magnus asked her eldest son Edward what his dreams were in life, he replied simply: “I want to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day.”

That moment was a key part of the inspiration which led to the founding of Mary’s Meals, which began by feeding just 200 children in Malawi in 2002. Today, we feed 2,279,941 hungry children every school day across 20 countries. 

The charity is named in honour of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who brought up her own child in poverty.

Mary's Meals throughout the years

Magnus and Gerard Butler at an awards ceremony

2010

400,000

Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

Magnus was presented with a CNN Hero award by our friend and global ambassador, Gerard Butler. Gerard praised Magnus for our work and said: “Every day Magnus lets children know that they matter, that someone thousands of miles away cares about them.”

Children from Malawi waiting in line with their porridge mugs to receive Mary's Meals at school.

2011

500,000 

Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

Alongside our school feeding programmes, our emergency relief work also continued. We joined forces with our long-standing friends in Malawi and a South African charity – Gift of the Givers – to deliver emergency food aid to more than 40,000 people in Somalia. 

Mary's Meals volunteer cooks from Malawi preparing porridge to serve to school children.

2012

700,000

Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

With school feeding having become the sole focus of its work, SIR officially changes its registered charity name to Mary’s Meals.

 

 

A Liberian child sitting in class gaining an education.

2014

900,000

Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

The number of children receiving Mary’s Meals continues to grow thanks to the generosity of our supporters. We move closer to feeding one million children every school day.

A supporter enjoys reading the Shed that Fed

2015

1,000,000

Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

Mary’s Meals feeds one million children around the world every school day. To celebrate the incredible milestone, Magnus’ book, The Shed That Fed A Million Children, is published. 

2 Million Logo

2021

2,058,099

Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

Mary's Meals celebrated feeding more than 2 million children every school day. The Shed That Fed 2 Million Children, the fully updated edition of Magnus’ 2015 book is released in celebration.

20th anniversary logo

2022

2,279,941

Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

For 20 years, our school feeding programmes have reached some of the most challenging regions in the world where poverty and hunger prevent children from attending school.

Children eating in Haiti

Food changes the story

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