Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow: the man behind World Porridge Day

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Happy World Porridge day!

This year, Brig had the honour of interviewing the founder of World Porridge Day and Mary’s Meals: Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow.

The day originated right here in Argyll, Scotland from the Scottish based charity, Mary’s Meals which provides chronically hungry children with one meal every school day, encouraging education that can lift them out of poverty later in life. 

2002 was when Mary’s Meals was born as Magnus was helping in the famine relief in Malawi and he met a family, the mother Emily was dying of AIDS surrounded by her children. When the eldest child was asked what he hoped for he replied:

“I want to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day”

By 2010, 400,000 children received Mary’s Meals and now in 2021 they are feeding 2,058099 children every day across Africa, Asia, The Caribbean and South America.

Magnus himself has also written two books about the charity: Give and The Shed That Fed A Million Children (a new edition of this has been released in honour of the charity hitting their two million milestone). His work has been recognised internationally receiving an OBE in 2011 honours list and also named one of 2010’s ‘Top 10 Heroes’ by CNN.

Also, before all this he capped four times for Scotland Shinty at a senior international level.

Although we obviously wanted to speak to Magnus about World Porridge Day, Magnus’ faith was incredibly important to the creation of Mary’s Meals. When asked about the impact his faith had Magnus said:

“My Christian faith has had a profound impact on the decisions I made which led to the birth of MM, and has also shaped and informed our organisational values and ways of doing things. I have always had a deep devotion to Mary the mother of Jesus and feel a great sense of responsibility in doing this work in her name.” 

However he felt it was important to note that not everyone is of the Christian faith

“Ours has always been a universal mission – supporters come from all sorts of different faith backgrounds and as, of course do the children who eat our meals.”

Mary’s Meals hit the massive milestone of feeding two million children every day: “Yes we have a huge desire to keep reaching more children because there are another 60million children still hungry and out of school – and a similar number in school but too hungry to concentrate and learn. So we feel our work has only just begun. And right now with acute hunger growing in the worlds poorest places there has to be a real sense of urgency in ensuring that every child in this world can at least receive a meal everyday in their place of education.”

Now onto the day itself! Magnus spoke about the inspiration behind the day being from the meal they serve in Malawi (where they began the work) is called Likuni Phala. ‘Phala’ means porridge, their porridge being made of corn and soya with added sugar, vitamins and minerals.” 

“They also serve porridge in other countries in that region such as Zambia and Zimbabwe. All of this food is grown and produced locally, which is a key part of our model (to support growth of the local economy).”

“Anyway all that porridge by served in African by a Scottish born charity deserved its own day of celebration we thought!”

We of course had to ask how Magnus has his own porridge and he told us how a couple of weeks ago he picked a large amount of wild blueberries with his children that grew an amazing crop this autumn in their area. There were far too many to eat fresh and so he froze bags of them and now scatters a few every morning into his porridge.

The charity has mad so much progress in recent years. When asked what the future of Mary’s Meals was, all Magnus had to say was simply “We just go forward one child at a time as we always have. Please God we reach many many more children. There is enough food and there are enough good people in the world for our vision to be realised.”

The interview closed with a question Magnus wish he was asked more in interviews: “what University did you go to?” It was Stirling of course, though he never finished his degree.

Mary’s Meals is a truly wonderful charity doing amazing work and the best way for people around the country to get involved with the big day is to check out the Website for ways you can help individually or as a group or even as a school.

How to fundraise –
World Porridge day –

Image credit – The Oban Times

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Film, Media and Journalism student who writes about things that catch her interest. Instagram @charlsutcliffe

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