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Children in Benin waiting to be served Mary's Meals at school.

IESE Business School's Global Alumni Reunion

Mary’s Meals founder, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, talks to a gathering of some of the world’s most illustrious business minds about the ever-worsening global hunger crisis.

Published on

“We find ourselves going backwards”

Earlier this year – at an event at Spain’s pre-eminent IESE business school – Mary’s Meals founder, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, outlined the calamitous state of world hunger, bought about by the conspiring effects of Covid-19, conflict, and climate factors.

The lecture, entitled ‘A Sustainable Solution to World Hunger’, was designed to inspire attendees to go back to their own countries and motivate the companies where they work and their business networks to take positive, pro-active steps to transition to more sustainable ways of working.

He told the assembled audience of 5000 global IESE alumni,

“When we think about hunger in the world today, it’s a very depressing picture. After many decades of progress against global hunger, we find ourselves going backwards right now”

Magnus went onto highlight the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of ‘Zero Hunger by 2030’ and how it can now appear as an unlikely achievement at best and an impossible dream at worst. He cited the wars in South Sudan and Ethiopia as being huge contributing factors to the chronic hunger in both of those countries. For other nations, such as Madagascar, it is ongoing climate challenges that add to the already heavy burden of staving off starvation.

Magnus then delivered three very stark statistics:

  • Today, one in 10 people in the world are undernourished or struggling with hunger

  • Every minute, 11 people die of hunger-related causes

  • More than 20% of children aged under five in this world, have had their growth permanently stunted by malnutrition.

Magnus warned of the world becoming so caught up in some global challenges that we deprioritise the urgent need before us:

“There’s a risk today in the world when we’re so focused, and rightly so, on tackling climate change, that hunger, slips down the agenda and simply gets worse.”

Explaining the simple model of providing children with one good meal a day, served by the local community, Magnus outlined how Mary’s Meals is determined to tackle the hunger crisis in the countries where it works.

He stressed that the organisation tries as much possible to buy food in-country so that it can support local economies He cited South Sudan as a country where Mary’s Meals is not only working with partner organisations to source food locally but also working with former soldiers who have laid down their arms to work instead in agriculture. By buying from them, the charity can assure them of a stable livelihood and assure the region of a more peaceful existence.

Magnus also demonstrated the long-term commitment of Mary’s Meals to its programme countries, and explained that the end goal is that communities should, over time, come to fully own their own school- feeding programmes:

“We see how those young people (who have completed their education with the help of Mary’s Meals) will them begin to contribute to their economy. How they’ll hold their governments to account. How they’ll improve that these projects can be sustained by those communities and nations in due course.”


Magnus finished up his presentation by telling the IESE alumni that, if we are serious about creating a sustainable solution to world hunger, then we must start with the development of the individual child:

“What kind of sustainable future is there if children aren’t in school, if children aren’t eating, if children aren’t able to grow and develop to be the people that they are meant to be”

Today, in the world there are tens of millions of children who are not in education and millions more who need food support while learning. In these especially challenging times, it is more important than ever that we do not forget about them. Together, we can make a difference, give them hope, change their story.

Please give whatever you can to support out Global Hunger Crisis Appeal.

Mary's Meals Global Hunger Crisis Appeal.

Global Hunger Crisis Appeal

Help us reach the next child waiting.