Assessing our impact
2021 was a challenging but very successful year for Mary’s Meals. Covid-19 continued to affect our ability to feed children in their place of education, with school closures or restrictions on our in-school feeding from 2020.
Despite this, Mary’s Meals was able to keep our promise to the children we reach (with in-school feeding where possible and through take-home rations when necessary). We also expanded to reach an additional 425,058 children in 1,240 schools in 12 countries.
2021 was also a notable year for Mary’s Meals as we reached a global milestone of feeding two million children daily, whilst demonstrating a strong impact across all our programmes.
Our 2021 Annual Impact Report provides an overview of data gathered from the ongoing monitoring of our work, as well as a thematic focus on the impact of keeping our promise in Malawi through both take-home rations (for most of the school year) and the return to in-school feeding (for seven weeks).
Our Covid-19 response
For Mary’s Meals, 2021 was a year of adapting to an often-changing environment to ensure we were keeping our promise to the children we reach. In many of our programmes, schools were forced to close for at least part of the year.
In our Malawi programme, children received take-home rations until we were finally able to resume in-school feeding. Here, we conducted two separate studies to track how well we kept our promise throughout the year, and to learn for future emergency responses.
Our impact over the years
Our five-year impact report observed our school feeding programmes in two of our largest country programmes: Malawi and Zambia. Throughout the project, we consulted a range of children, teachers, householders and volunteers to fully understand the scale of our work. Results from the study (many of which are not surprising) conclude that our mission – to provide a daily meal in a place of education – has real and significant impacts for children in terms of hunger and energy levels, wellbeing, access to education, engagement and progression in education and community support and ownership for learning.
Although our focus will always centre around the children we serve, the impact of our work on communities is also significant, and the generosity and dedication of our volunteers and local communities is intrinsic to our approach to school feeding.
This reassurance, that our work is changing the lives of poverty-stricken children and communities for the better, shows that our vision is being realised and that our efforts to reach the next child will never stop.
The next child
Our first priority, as ever, is to keep our promise to the children already in our programme, but we must also continue to strive to reach the next hungry child waiting.
Our strategic plan for 2021-2023 (The Next Child) maintains three strategic aims: feed more children in a place of education and help those suffering the effects of extreme poverty in the world’s poorest communities; grow the global movement and enable more people to offer their money, goods skills, time, or prayer to advance the work of Mary’s Meals; and strengthen the organisation and Mary’s Meals’ global network in the furtherance of the vision, mission and values.
We aspire to be capable of serving three million children every school day by the end of 2023.
This is a hugely ambitious plan, but we believe it is possible.
You can find out more about our strategic plan by reading our strategy document.
Our impact story - findings at a glance
- A child who has the energy to attend and concentrate during lessons can achieve the unthinkable.
- School feeding programmes are widely recognised as a cost-effective way to tackle poverty by addressing the immediate needs of hungry children and contributing to the long-term development of their communities.
- Our findings show that in the first year of our programme, Mary’s Meals reduces hunger levels for boys and girls, and the impact is sustained over time.
- Children in Malawi were 29 times more likely to never feel hungry while at school than those not receiving our meals and children in the programme group in Zambia were also six times more likely to never feel hungry at school than those who were not.
- Energy levels also increased after just one year of our feeding programme, with almost 100% of children in Malawi and Zambia having ‘some energy’ or ‘lots of energy’ after eating Mary’s Meals.
- School attendance and enrolment are also positively impacted by Mary’s Meals, with more children registering at school and higher numbers attending lessons. Communities also notice fewer children not in school after Mary’s Meals is introduced into education environments.
We're now feeding 2,429,182 children every school day.
But more than 67 million primary school-age children are out of school around the world. In order to survive, they have to work or beg. Even if they do make it into the classroom, hunger affects their ability to learn.