But when schools closed amid Covid-19, MacFarlane-Barrow and his team lost direct access to students when they needed them the most.
That didn’t stop the organization from making sure no child goes hungry. Very quickly, Mary’s Meals began working with local governments and community leaders to find new ways to distribute food for the children.
“There sometimes is a very good reason to suspend schools; there can never be good reason to suspend the feeding of children,” said MacFarlane-Barrow, a 2010 CNN Hero.
Since April, community leads and parents and guardians have been able to travel to schools and collect food from Mary’s Meals to bring home and cook for their families.
The organization is feeding children in more than 15 countries, including Malawi, Ethiopia, India, Haiti and Kenya — reaching as many students as it had pre-Covid-19.
“If someone asked me whether that would be possible even two months ago, I wouldn’t have believed them,” MacFarlane-Barrow said. “But here we are at that point, having found a way to keep our promise.”
Mary’s Meals volunteers distribute the food at each site, and all collection is done with social distancing protocols.
“So much of what we do depends on people’s goodness, on all those little acts of love,” MacFarlane-Barrow said. “Whether it’s the volunteers in the developing world who are coming to collect the food each day, or people who are making donations so we can keep the child fed every day. I thank, with all my heart, every person who is doing that these days.”