HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow

Founder and Chief Executive of Mary’s Meals & Author of The Shed That Fed a Million Children: The Extraordinary Story of Mary’s Meals


  • Child Poverty
  • Faith In Action
  • World Hunger


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Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, OBE, is founder and CEO of Mary’s Meals, a global hunger charity which in 2015, reached the milestone of providing a daily meal in a place of education for more than one million of the world’s poorest children. The daily meal attracts children to the classroom, where they can gain a basic education that provides an escape route from poverty.

In 2010, Magnus was praised as a CNN hero for his role in founding and running Mary's Meals, and in April 2015, he was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world. Magnus’ book, The Shed That Fed A Million Children, reached the UK’s prestigious Times and Sunday Times bestseller list immediately after its release. Magnus has also received honorary degrees from the University of Hull, Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Stirling and the University of Edinburgh.

Magnus has given many public talks to audiences large and small, including delivering the key note address at the World Food Prize in 2013. He has also spoken at youth festivals and Christian conferences and other speaker events geared at a variety of audiences including entrepreneurs, food industry experts and educators.

In The Shed That Fed a Million Children: The Extraordinary Story of Mary’s Meals (Harper360) MacFarlane-Barrow retells how a series of miraculous circumstances and an overwhelming display of love from those around him led to the creation of Mary's Meals; an organization that could hold the key to eradicating child hunger altogether.

Magnus started his career as a fish farmer in Argyll, Scotland. In 1992 during the Balkan conflict, he and his brother Fergus were so moved by scenes of the conflict on television that they took a week’s leave from their jobs, loaded a jeep with aid and joined a convoy travelling to Medjugorje, in Bosnia, to distribute it.

On their return, donations continued to flood in resulting in Magnus eventually driving from Scotland to Bosnia a total of 23 times to deliver vital supplies. Magnus never returned to his old job andinstead set up a registered charity, named Scottish International Relief (SIR).

Soon after, Magnus met Julie, a nurse, who volunteered to help him deliver emergency aid. Julie became committed to the charity, and its founder too. The couple married and now have seven children together.

During a trip to Malawi in 2002, Magnus met with a family whose predicament was to spark a change in not only his own life, but in the lives of thousands of others.

Lying on the floor of a hut was a mother named Emma, who was dying of AIDS. Her six children were gathered around her and Magnus asked the eldest son, Edward, what it was that he hoped for from life. “To have enough to eat and to go to school one day,” was his answer.

Edward’s words inspired a mission to attract girls and boys to school by providing Mary’s Meals. One step at a time, through Mary’s Meals, Magnus has let children all over the world know they matter.

From feeding just 200 children in southern Malawi in 2002, the charity now works with communities in 12 different countries around the world, proving a meal for 1,101,206 children every school day.

Mary’s Meals is a simple idea that works. A daily meal in school has a positive impact on enrolment, attendance and performance in class, and could even hold the key to eradicating child hunger altogether. The global average cost of feeding a child for a whole school year with Mary’s Meals is just £12.20/€14.50/$19.50.

Support for Mary’s Meals is global, with fundraising groups in Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UAE, UK and USA.


Praise for Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow:

“Every meal given to these children is a piece of charity and a little piece of love, and goes into the hearts of the children, feeding them physically and nourishing them. That all passes down into the families and into the communities and gives them a sense of hope and that is the difference between a kid saying, ‘I want to survive tomorrow’ and ‘I want to be a doctor’.”
-Gerard Butler, Actor

“Having Magnus on campus was a powerful educational experience for our students. The event was very well attended and highly engaging. Magnus has a strong capacity to connect with students; his personal and professional stories resonate deeply. He is inspiring and calls students to action.”
- Dr. Mark Putnam, President, Central College, Iowa

“We should all be incredibly proud of what Magnus and all those involved with Mary’s Meals have achieved.”

-Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister and now appointed United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education.

“If one fact should resonate in our minds, it might be that the average cost of a lunch in the United States could feed a child in a developing country for an entire year.”
-Annie Lennox, Singer

“I commend the founders, board members, staff and volunteers of Mary's Meals for their wonderful work.”
-Arun Gandhi, Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi

“These innocent souls don’t know if they’ll see another meal, another day, another breath of life. But through the grace and love provided by Mary’s Meals, there is hope, there is a future, there is life.”
-Celine Dion, Singer

“The Shed that Fed a Million Children is a great testament to the wonderful things that can be accomplished when people work together to share God’s love and reach out to those in need.  It’s a modern day miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish!”
- Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York