Freedom From Hunger
The impact of Mary’s Meals at St Matthew’s Primary School in Turkana has been significant.
“I feel free” were Boaz’s poignant words after he received his first serving of Mary’s Meals at St Matthew’s Primary School in Turkana.
Hunger has hindered Boaz’s life and learning for as long as he can remember, and he’s not alone. Across Kenya, malnutrition among children is alarmingly high, with 29% of children in rural areas – and 20% in cities – stunted.
Boaz has a rigorous routine to keep on top of his learning and chores. He wakes up every morning at 4:30am to get ready to go to class and, after a day of learning, carries out his school duties which include sweeping the classrooms and school grounds.
How did hunger impact Boaz?
Before the arrival of Mary’s Meals, Boaz and his classmates often went for long periods without eating. They struggled to focus and perform to the best of their abilities in class and during exams because of the debilitating hunger they felt.
Boaz says: “To me, hunger is the biggest problem. You cannot even participate in playing since you keep thinking of where you will get your next meal. The one thing that hinders productivity at school is hunger since we do not even have breakfast. Before Mary's Meals got here, we sat our exams and I did not perform well. Even engaging our teachers during class discussions was a problem because of hunger.”
Life with daily school meals
The provision of school meals was life-changing for Boaz and the impact on his studies was immediate. No longer did he worry about underperforming at school or battling the hunger pangs he was so used to enduring.
“The first day we received Mary's Meals I managed to read till late as I was contented and motivated to study,” he explains.
“I feel free. I have no concerns about learning. Previously, I was anxious about going to school because of hunger, but right now I am happy and ready to learn. My level of understanding has increased.
“I am not worried and I am grateful to Mary's Meals because these meals have benefited us and we can now achieve our dreams in the future.”
The effects daily meals are having for St Matthew's Primary School
Head teacher at St Matthew’s Primary School, Abayo Josephat, said that there was widespread relief among learners on the day the meals were first served. He explained that children would frequently leave the school in search of food, often to no avail. The dropout rate was so high that the school couldn’t teach classes in the afternoon, but now, learners who had previously left school are back and classes run all day long.
He says: “Initially we would have low turnouts of children coming to school, but right now, everyone – even those who used to stay at home – they are back to school because of the food. Previously, we didn’t have afternoon classes, but now, learners can concentrate from morning until even the afternoon classes.
“The community is responding very well [to the meals], and their wish is that they continue since most of them are from very poor backgrounds where affording a single meal is a problem.
“The biggest problem with the Turkana community is the issue of food. Most people are farmers and when children don’t get any food, that is the end of their life; they drop out of school and that is why we experience the problems of child labour in these towns.”
Hope for a better future in Turkana
Today, thanks to our latest expansion to provide meals in 171 Turkana primary schools, more than 60,000 children are one step closer to fulfilling their dreams. The promise we make to all children enrolled in our feeding programme (that they will receive daily meals in a place of learning every school day) is, for some in Turkana, the difference between life and death.
The region is currently suffering its worst drought in 40 years and families are battling to keep their children alive as livestock and livelihoods dwindle. Mary’s Meals is striving every day to keep children like Boaz healthy and in school and bring much-needed support to those in greatest need. We won’t stop until every child is safe in the knowledge that they will receive a daily meal at school. Please continue to stand with us as we help children to survive, thrive and reach their full potential.
We're now serving 2,429,182 children every school day.
But 67 million primary school-age children are out of school around the world. Even for those attending school, hunger is one of the biggest barriers to concentration and learning.