Transforming lives one meal at a time

You don’t have to go far in Kenya without bumping into a real social issue that needs solving. A good friend of mine shared one with me today. I have known Mary Omingo for 8 years and worked closely with her. She was interested to hear about my social innovation role and we got talking about addressing real social problems. She shared with me the problems she had had with her father since he recently became a widower after the prolonged illness and death of her mother. 

Mary identified the loneliness that her father was experiencing and how difficult he was finding things. Mary has a sister back home in Western Province who has a ‘hotel’ (for hotel read cafe). Mary decided to pay for all the widowers in the village to have one free meal per day at the hotel. Mary pays KES30,000 every month (about £240) and it has had a tremendous effect on her father and others in his predicament. It has done so much to offset the loneliness that he was experiencing. 

Mary went on to say that other men have also turned up for a free meal on the grounds that their wives do not cook for them. Mary has had to turn them away. Not an uncommon phenomenon according to Mary. 

It reminds me of Mary’s meals – not related (worth having a look at on the web). With 61 million children not attending school, one of the ways that you can attract and retain children in education is by giving them a meal. Mary’s meals, founded in 2002 in Scotland and starting with 200 pupils per day in Malawi, now feeds 1,187, 104 meals a day and counting. A brilliant idea – so simple and so transformative. 

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