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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 through 20+ years of life-changing school feeding.

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 Scotland to 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 a mobile health clinic, and continued to deliver material aid to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as funding many additional projects.

Initially, the charity 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 CEO – 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 that led to the founding of Mary’s Meals, which began by providing school meals to around 200 children in two primary schools in Malawi. Today, we serve meals to 2,429,182 children every school day across 17 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



Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

Magnus is presented with a CNN Hero award by our friend and global ambassador, Gerard Butler. Gerard praises Magnus for our work, saying: “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.



Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

While continuing to operate our school feeding programmes, we join forces with our long-standing friends in Malawi and a South African charity – Gift of the Givers – to mobilise an urgent famine response. Working in partnership, we 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.



Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

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



A Liberian child sitting in class gaining an education.



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



Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

Mary’s Meals announces the news that it is now providing meals to 1 million children every school day. To celebrate the incredible milestone, Magnus’ book, The Shed That Fed A Million Children, is published by HarperCollins.

2 Million Logo



Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

Mary's Meals celebrates serving more than 2 million children every school day. The Shed That Fed 2 Million Children, (an update edition of Magnus’ 2015 book) is published to mark the moment.

20th anniversary logo



Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

This year marks 20 years of the Mary’s Meals global school feeding programme, bringing hope to hungry children in partnership with some of the world’s poorest communities.

Mary's Meals reaches 2.4 million children



Children receive Mary's Meals every school day. 

Nutritious school meals are more vital than ever for the more than 2.4 million children now receiving Mary’s Meals, amid a global cost of living crisis. With support from donors and our trusted local partner in Aleppo, we also activate an emergency response to provide emergency meals to thousands of children and vulnerable adults affected by earthquakes in Syria.

Food changes the story

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