An Advocate for Mary’s Meals

On a recent trip to Malawi, our founder Magnus met up with Fortunate Phiri, a previous recipient of Mary’s Meals, who left a congratulatory comment on one of our social media posts.

Back to all stories | Posted on 17 September 22

When we recently posted on Mary’s Meals’ LinkedIn page celebrating 20 years of life-changing meals, it prompted a comment from Fortunate Phiri that meant the world to us. As Fortunate revealed, he had personally benefited from the school feeding programme as a child and is now enjoying a successful career as a chemical engineer.

Fortunate was in Grade 8 (11/12 years old) when Mary’s Meals was first introduced at his school in Malawi. Like most children in his district, existing on one evening meal was normal for him. Regular breakfast had never been a possibility for his family and Fortunate says his concentration at school suffered as a result.

That first year – when Mary’s Meals porridge was introduced and served every day – was, in Fortunate’s own words, a “game changer” for him and for every other learner at the school. The immediate impact was obvious, with increased student enrolment and fewer pupils skipping school. Fortunate felt able to apply himself more purposefully to his studies.

In Grade 9, he graduated to a secondary school where, sadly, there was no daily meal. Fortunate went on to study chemical engineering at Malawi Institute of Technology and now, age 27, wants to continue with his studies and get his master’s degree. His great hope, in these especially difficult times, is that Mary’s Meals will continue to reach more and more students and give them the motivation to come to school and stay in class to learn.

He says: “The Mary’s Meals [school feeding] programme had a huge impact in our schools. The number of students who enrolled in our school started increasing. Even other students who attended schools where the programme had not yet been introduced, they started leaving those schools to come to our school.

“Most families in Malawi are not well-to-do. They don’t have breakfast. Most of them, they just have one meal per day, so it was a game changer for most of us.

“The programme helped my siblings too … after getting the porridge at school, it wasn’t a big deal having an empty stomach when we were at home.

“In five years’ time I see myself doing a master’s and even going further into PhD [studies]. I would like to stay in academics because I like imparting knowledge – I think it’s my calling. I want to be teaching and lecturing and, if possible, helping other students with scholarships.”

Mary’s Meals serves life-changing daily meals to 2,279,941 children every school day across 20 countries – but our work is far from over. The promise of a daily meal at school can bring lasting change to children and their families; giving children a reason to go to school and complete their education while providing the fuel they need to make attending class worthwhile. Fortunate experienced this support first-hand as a young boy when he knew he could count on receiving a meal at school. He then endured the struggle and challenges of higher education, without the guaranteed nourishment he so desperately needed.

In the countries where we work, schools and communities – equipped with the volunteers and resources required to power the school feeding programme – are poised to give young people the chance to fulfil their potential, like Fortunate. We need your support to make the promise of a life-changing school meal a reality for more of the world’s poorest children, so they too can look forward to a daily serving of nutritious food while they learn, and work towards a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

Please act now to help us reach the next child waiting for Mary’s Meals