School dinners were a firm feature for nostalgia when we researched our Looking back at…school days piece this month. School meals are an essential part of school life, giving children energy to learn and make the most of their education.
UK based charity, Mary’s Meals, is dedicated to one goal – that every child receives a nutritious daily meal in a place of education. Mary’s Meals is a simple idea that works. The charity provides one daily meal in a place of learning in order to attract chronically poor children into the classroom, where they receive an education that can, in the future, be their ladder out of poverty.
Mary’s Meals feeds 1,257,278 hungry children every school day across four continents, in 15 countries including Malawi, Liberia, Kenya, Syria, Zambia, Haiti, Uganda, South Sudan, Thailand, India and Ethiopia.
It costs just £13.90 to feed a child for an entire school year through its school feeding programmes.
Research shows that in schools where Mary’s Meals are provided, there is a rise in rates of enrolment, attendance and academic performance.
One Dundee grandmother has taken to her bicycle in order to raise much needed funds for Mary’s Meals. After turning 80 in April, Ellison Hudson decided to mark her milestone birthday by tackling the incredible 134 miles of the John Muir Way to raise money for the global school feeding charity.
Ellison began her coast-to-coast journey on 18 May in Helensburgh, Argyll, and finished the mammoth cycle in Dunbar, East Lothian – stopping at guest accommodation along the way.
The grandmother of 10 has supported Mary’s Meals over the years and as a keen cyclist wanted to combine two of her passions.
She hopes her efforts will help to raise £1,000 for the charity. Ellison explained: ‘I love the simple idea behind Mary’s Meals – giving children a good meal at school. I was moved by the story behind the charity after hearing about it and was amazed to hear that 93p from every pound donated is spent on its charitable activity.
‘Having previously lived in India, I’ve seen first-hand the poverty that exists and I think it’s wonderful what Mary’s Meals is doing around the world.’
The former midwife was joined by her granddaughter Allie MacLean and friend Lin Brisley for the cycle, which Ellison admits is the toughest challenge she has faced on two wheels.
She said: ‘I regularly cycle but this is by far the longest distance that I have travelled on my bike.
‘Some people are surprised by how often I cycle but I couldn’t recommend it highly enough as it has helped me to stay active.’
Commenting on Ellison’s efforts, Mary’s Meals fundraising officer, Morven Macgillivray, said:
‘We are extremely grateful to Ellison for helping us to transform the lives of hungry children with Mary’s Meals. It is the kindness of our amazing supporters who make this wonderful work possible.’
The charity’s latest campaign is calling for help to reach desperately hungry children caught up in the worsening crisis in war-torn South Sudan.
The fighting is forcing families from their homes, schools are being destroyed and 6.3 million people are facing a hunger crisis. As the lean season between harvests approaches, this figure is expected to rise and more than seven million people – almost two thirds of the population – could soon be at risk.
The charity is one of the few organisations providing reliable and consistent food delivery to schools in the country, working alongside its local partner organisation, the Diocese of Rumbek, to feed desperately hungry children at 40 schools in Rumbek, Yirol and Mapuordit in the Lakes state, a region that has been plagued with persistent violence and food insecurity.
Now more hungry children are turning to Mary’s Meals for help as rising numbers of families arrive in the area where the charity is working, having fled from other parts of the country.
During this time of crisis in South Sudan, the daily meal Mary’s Meals provides is not just a powerful incentive to come to school, but it is also a vital lifeline for vulnerable children in need of nourishment.
Moses Kopurot Kenyi, education coordinator for the Diocese of Rumbek, said: ‘It’s a terrible situation. Many of the children are displaced or without their parents. They are very traumatised. There is a lot of hunger and people are just eating leaves from trees. Mary’s Meals’ feeding programme is helping us a lot. For these children, there is no other source of food.
‘Education is really important for helping to build peace. Without education, the situation will never change and the division and anger will still be there. We have hope that this will be the generation that will bring an ever-lasting peace in South Sudan.’
For more information, to donate or to find out how you can support Mary’s Meals, please call 01838 200605 or visit www.marysmeals.org.uk