Food PoliticsNews

Martha Payne : A Nine Year Old Inspires Change to School Lunches

By Allana Mortell | June 18, 2012

The internet has always been a hotbed resource for sharing, reaching out and creating conversation with the world, but one nine year old girl from Western Scotland has revolutionized and single-handedly affected change on one food-oriented, political issue disturbing us all : that of the school lunch.

Photo Courtesy of USDA Gov.

Martha Payne created her food blog, “NeverSeconds,” over three months ago as a project to document and shed light on the options for food at her school. Describing the blog as “one primary school pupil’s daily dose of school dinners,”she posts photos of her meals on a lunch tray along with a rating system which covers everything from “number of bites” to “food-o-meter”. The blog quickly took off, garnering more than 2 million views in a matter of weeks. During that same time, Martha has been raising money for a charity close to her heart, Mary’s Meals, which provides daily meals to over 600,000 school children in 16 different countries including Kenya, Malawi, Liberia and Haiti. Before Martha’s story had reached international headlines, the young girl had helped raised about $15,000 towards Mary’s Meals but since today, donations had exploded past $127,000. 

With her daily photos and extremely honest, descriptive explanations, Martha’s blog gained global attention from fellow bloggers along with some love from celebrity chefs, including Jaime Oliver. While the lunch options Martha blogged about were a far, unappealing cry from the nutritious meals kids should be having, Martha’s Dad was quoted, “the blog was not designed to attack. It was a nine year old’s work project about school food.”

Perhaps the biggest post to garner national attention was that of a small slice of pizza along with the a tiny potato croquette, which Martha then wrote about it: “I’d have enjoyed more than 1 croquet [sic] … I’m a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I can’t do it on 1 croquette. Do any of you think you could?”

However, the nine year-old’s world was shaken upside down when, over this past weekend, the local council in Scotland informed Martha she would no longer be able to post photos of her lunches after a Scottish newspaper ran the headline, “Time to Fire the School Dinner Ladies.” As soon as local council Argyll and Bute banned Martha from posting the photos, word quickly spread and many folk took to Twitter to express their outrage and opinion. The extreme backlash Argyll and Bute received soon prompted them to lift the ban with council leader Roddy McCuish being put into the hot seat. “There’s no place for censorship in the Argyll and Bute council and there never will be …. I’ve just instructed senior officials to immediately withdraw the ban on pictures from the school dining hall. It’s a good thing to do, to change your mind, and I’ve certainly done that,” McCuish said.

And change  minds she did. From the photos Martha shared to posting photos sent in from students all over the world (including California, Illinois and Norway), the attention and conversation Martha has started is astounding. She has affected change and caught the attention of the world, including celebrity chef Nick Nairn, who will be teaming up with Martha to start providing more nutritious meals at her school.

Even further, she’s helped raise more money for Mary’s Meals and the charity will be naming a school kitchen after her as a result of her efforts. Called, “Friends of NeverSeconds,” the kitchen will be a small reminder of the good that can come from sharing, spreading word and starting conversations. How’s that for food for thought?

To truly thank Martha and all of the donors, Mary’s Meals posted this video from the Lirangwe School in Malawi that Martha just recently posted on her latest entry. 

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