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Buying lunch in Scotland now helps African children to eat

Council funds food for children at school in Malawi, provided by the charity Mary's Meals

Council funds food for children at school in Malawi, provided by the charity Mary's Meals

For years, parents have urged their offspring to "think of the starving children in Africa" and eat up their food - only to be told they didn't see how finishing off their sprouts could help feed others thousands of miles away.

Now, a scheme being introduced in East Ayrshire schools provides the missing link in the parents' argument. For the council's new incentive scheme will mean that by buying a school lunch, pupils can ensure that children in Malawi are also provided with a nutritious meal.

Every East Ayrshire pupil eating a school lunch will receive a point, and for every five points collected, the council will fund one meal for a child at the council's chosen school in Malawi, provided by the charity Mary's Meals. Council officials hope this will establish a direct link between each child taking part in the scheme and those benefiting in Africa.

Schools will be issued with educational material, such as posters and cards, to inform them about the work done by Mary's Meals and keep track of the total points collected, and volunteers from the charity will visit schools.

Robin Gourlay, head of facilities management at East Ayrshire Council, devised the scheme before being seconded to the Scottish Government. He said: "The children in Malawi will win, the school meals service will win because more children will take school meals, and the children will widen their horizons and receive a healthy lunch."

Andrew Kennedy, who has taken over his post in an acting capacity, added: "Rather than providing opportunities to win cinema tickets or iPods, we have taken the different approach that offers the `gift' that helps others."

"Mary's Meals as a charity also offers a very clear approach that good nutrition allows improved opportunity for education to support sustainable routes out of poverty - values that align with the council, education and the school meals service," he added.

Mary's Meals, which was founded in 2002 as a one-off school feeding programme, now provides daily meals in school for more than 450,000 children in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

A spokeswoman for the charity said: "It costs Mary's Meals as little as 3p to provide a meal for a child in school in Malawi, so at the same time as choosing to eat well in their own schools, schoolchildren in Scotland will be helping hungry children in developing countries to receive a nutritious meal in theirs."

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