Mary’s Meals has been helping students in Malawi and 17 other nations receive enough food to get them through the school year. Courtesy of Mary’s Meals

Mary’s Meals puts on a virtual feast

By 
  • December 21, 2019

You are cordially invited to join the biggest Christmas dinner table in the world … and feed a child for a whole school year at the same time.

Mary’s Meals, a charity built on the simple proposition that every child “deserves an education and enough to eat,” is hoping the generosity of guests at its virtual dinner table will give thousands of children in poverty-stricken countries a better chance at success in life.

“I think that living in a country like Canada, we are so richly blessed,” said Jill Mowser, fund-raising co-ordinator for Mary’s Meals Canada. “Most of us have more than we need and Mary’s Meals is just such a simple idea that allows us to be able to share what we have with people who have nothing, with children who don’t even have enough food to eat. It’s just something so simple that we can do and it also helps us to remember the blessings that we have and to be more grateful for the things that we have.” 

Here’s how it works: Through the virtual Christmas dinner at BigFamilyChristmas.com, participants donate $22 to set a place at the virtual table, which can be viewed on the site. By early December, more than 800 children  had been assured a year’s worth of meals at school through the Christmas program.

“They’re encouraged to add a name to each place that they set,” said Mowser. “They will add their name or the name of a loved one or friend or family member to the place. It will appear alongside all of the other thousands of other place settings at the dinner table and from around the world.”

The registered charity sets up school feeding programs in countries where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education. Their idea is that by providing one good meal in a place of learning, children are drawn into the classroom where they can receive an education that could free them from poverty.

The organization, that already helps 1.5 million children around the world with meals in schools, says it costs about $22 to make sure a child has a meal at school for a year. For every $1 that is donated, 93 cents is spent directly on their charitable activities. 

The organization’s biggest school feeding program is in Malawi, where co-founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow was inspired to start Mary’s Meals in 2002. It has since spread to 17 other countries, including Syria, Haiti, Lebanon, India and Bangladesh. 

“Mary’s Meals globally is currently feeding over one million children in Malawi alone,” said Mowser. “It’s one of the poorest countries in the world. Mary’s Meals is always striving to work in countries where there is the greatest need, where children quite often have a lot of barriers that prevent them from going to school. 

“So these children are often too hungry to even go to school. They need to work or beg for food, and so they miss out on getting an education.”

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