By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — For the price of a pizza, Newman Catholic Student Center participants learned they could feed a child in a Malawi school one meal a day for a year. That knowledge, gleaned from a global movement called Mary’s Meals, has inspired an effort to raise $20,500 by the end of May to feed 1,055 school children.
To date, the fundraising effort has generated $16,000, which includes $10,000 in donations raised in early 2017 by a Newman Center community member. April Rouner, the Newman Center’s development director, is hopeful that the remaining $4,500 will be raised by the deadline.
The affordability factor resonates with Newman Center students. “It’s $19.50 to feed one child for a year. That’s a cool thing,” said Steven Landa, a Prayer & Worship Fellow at the Newman Center and a University of Iowa junior majoring in pre-pharmacy. “A lot of us, being in school, don’t have a lot of money … for a meal-and-a-half downtown I can feed a kid in an impoverished nation for one year. That’s a cool way for me to pay it forward.”
Mary’s Meals has a motto, Rouner said: “school-plus-food-equals hope.” Students are required to come to school each day to receive that life-saving meal. Parents or guardians make sure students get to school.
Chituwi Primary School in Malawi was selected as the recipient of the Newman Center’s fundraising effort. “My four sons all graduated from Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City. I wanted to choose a school in Africa the size of Regina (approximately 1,000 students). You pick the size and location of the school and calculate how much money you have to raise,” Rouner said.
Choosing a similar-sized school “puts it into perspective,” Landa said. “It seems so cheap to feed an entire school community for a year, when you look at how much it costs to feed people in the United States.” He also appreciates the two-pronged approach of Mary’s Meals, “which can break the circle of poverty.”
Rouner learned about Mary’s Meals while attending the Christ Our Life Catholic Regional Conference in Des Moines two different years. The program’s founder is Magnus McFarlane-Barrow, a Scotsman who has written and spoken about Mary’s Meals worldwide. A talk he gave at the conference last September with Father Tom Hagan, who serves in Haiti, moved Rouner to take action.
“I thought to myself: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get young people involved and empower them to help their peers in other parts of the world?’ When I got back to the Newman Center, I approached the Newman Fellows — the student leadership team — about taking on Mary’s Meals. They gave it a resounding yes. They wanted to do it as their 2017 Lenten project.”
At the Newman Center, “we talk about discipleship and spreading the light of Christ into the world. This is a way that college students can do that,” said Justin Lenczycki, an Outreach Fellow and University of Iowa junior majoring in human physiology. “Feeding a child for a year for $19.50 is doable.”
At one of the monthly Sunday night dinners for the Newman community, Rouner was the guest speaker. “We took donations from that meal and donated it back to Mary’s Meals to help starving children in the world, to spread the light of Christ to them,” Lenczycki said. “We want to get the word out … to help out those in need, and who need it the most.”
During another fundraising event, Ellen Miller, a co-chair of the Christ Our Life conference, and University of Iowa student Aparna Ajjarapu spoke at a Global Poverty & Hunger forum. Miller displayed an empty pizza box, printed with “$19.50.” She asked the students: “Can you sacrifice a pizza, the equivalent of $19.50, to feed a child in need for an entire school year?’”
Other University of Iowa student groups, local parish councils, Knights of Columbus and the extended community were also challenged to assist in raising awareness and donating funds, and did so.
Rouner noted: “St. Teresa, said, ‘If you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed just one.’”
About Mary’s Meals
Mary’s Meals is a global movement that sets up school feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities where hunger and poverty prevent children from going to school and getting an education. The nonprofit, nondenominational organization was created in 2002 during a famine in Malawi as a simple solution to hunger. Mary’s Meals feeds more than 1 million children of all faiths across five continents (16 countries) daily. Ninety-three cents of every dollar donated is spent directly on its charitable activities. This is possible because most of Mary’s Meals work is done by volunteers worldwide (over 65,000 daily).
Ways to give:
* Write a check made to Mary’s Meals and mail to Newman Catholic Student Center, c/o April Rouner, 104 E. Jefferson St., Iowa City, IA 52245.
* Go to Mary’s Meals website (www.marysmealsusa.org) click on fundraising link, then click on Friend’s Project and enter Iowa City Student Stewards for the students’ donation page. This group name has to be entered for the Iowa City project to be credited with the donation.