By providing a nutritious daily meal in school, Mary's Meals attracts chronically hungry children to the classroom
Mary's Meals is based on a simple idea that works. By providing a nutritious daily meal in school, Mary's Meals attracts chronically hungry children to the classroom where they will receive an education that can be their route out of poverty in future.
The Scottish-based charity began feeding around 200 orphans in one Malawian primary school in 2002 and today feeds over 1.5 million children with a daily meal in 18 countries, including Liberia, Malawi, South Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Nonetheless, with 61 million primary-age school children out of school around the world, the charity believes that in many ways its work has just begun.
The charity recently established a school feeding programme in the north of Zambia, following an assessment that confirmed a great need for a daily meal among the pupils there.
The charity embarked on a project to feed 19,000 children in 25 schools in Zambia. However, it is now celebrating the fact that it is feeding over 134,000 children at schools in the Zambian district of Chipata.
Each child fed by Mary's Meals at school is given a daily serving of likuni phala – a vitamin-enriched maize porridge – served in plastic mugs.
Fifteen-year-old Daniel is visually impaired and attends The Magwero School for The Blind. He loves having Mary's Meals at school.
Daniel said, "I was much thinner and weaker before I got Mary's Meals at school. I used to go hungry but now I eat every day and I really appreciate the porridge."
Mary's Meals has also been described as a godsend by David Chawa, a Headteacher at Chambawa Primary School in Chipata. The primary school serves children from two villages and 49 farms.
David Chawa said, "Enrolment figures have increased, absenteeism has dropped and the health of pupils has improved since Mary's Meals began feeding at Chambawa Primary School.
"If Mary's Meals was not here many children would not eat as there is no food at home and children struggle with hunger.
"Since Mary's Meals came to the school, 315 children have enrolled and more are progressing from grade seven to grade eight because they are stronger. School completion rates are normally low so this is good news!"
Maureen Shawa is a volunteer cook at Chamasongwe Primary School also in Chipata. She has five children at the school and cooks alongside other parents and grandparents who volunteer to help serve Mary's Meals to the school children of the local district.
Maureen said, "I am happy that Mary's Meals has come to our school. As long as Mary's Meals is here we won't stop cooking. We are all working together. The programme depends on the community, the school, the pupils and Mary's Meals all working together.
"Many more children are happy to come to school because they know they are getting fed. Since Mary's Meals arrived I no longer have to push my children to get them to school. Our children used to be weak but now they are fit and healthy.
"We all have big hopes for our children but without Mary's Meals coming to the school, these would not be possible. I hope my children will be doctors and lawyers when they grow-up and give a helping hand to their parents."
Mary's Meals has been praised for its low-cost approach, which sees 93p of every £1 spent directly on charitable activities and the average cost to feed a child for a whole school year is just £13.90.
You can help the world's poorest communities build a better future. Please help to spread the word to feed as many hungry children as possible in school with Mary's Meals. For more information, visit www.marysmeals.org.uk or call 01838 200 605.