Nine-Year-Old Launches School Food Blog, Sees Reforms

by Bettina Elias Siegel on May 24, 2012

A few readers were kind enough to send me links about Martha Payne, a nine-year-old Scottish girl who last month started taking pictures of and blogging about her school’s meals — a budding Mrs. Q, if you will.

Called NeverSeconds, Martha’s blog rates each lunch using this scale:

Food-o-meter- Out of 10 a rank of how great my lunch was!
Mouthfuls- How else can we judge portion size!
Courses- Starter/main or main/dessert
Health Rating- Out of 10, can healthy foods top the food-o-meter?
Price- Currently £2 I think, its all done on a cashless catering card
Pieces of hair- It wont happen, will it?

Martha’s biggest complaint, besides the hair thing – ick, seems to be that she doesn’t get enough food at lunch. But after just a few posts, Martha’s blog went viral (it’s received over a million hits to date) and also attracted the attention of Jamie Oliver. Embarrassed by the negative publicity, the school council met with Martha’s father and now the school provides unlimited salad, bread and fruit with meals. Grist notes that the quality of the meal itself, in terms of the amount of vegetables served, also seemed to improve after this meeting.

It’s a happy ending, of course, but what really struck me is that some of the meals served to Martha before the council’s change in policy still looked pretty good, at least as compared to some of the school meals in my district. Here’s one of Martha’s meals before the policy change:

Photo source: NeverSeconds, copyright Martha Payne

And here’s a meal from Houston ISD:

This photo was taken in my kids' lunch room a while back

Note the actual plate and silverware in Martha’s meal, versus HISD’s styrofoam tray and flimsy plastic spork, not to mention Martha’s fresh vegetables and roasted potatoes versus our applesauce and overcooked spinach.

Maybe Martha could bring her camera to Houston?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

EdT. May 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm

She’s lucky she wasn’t in the USofA, where such behavior would likely have resulted in her immediate arrest and incarceration for violating some school policy or other, followed by a semester in “discipline alternative education” where she would be fed a diet of three squares of “Meat Jello” each day. That is, unless she took a camera to certain cities, which would earn her a one-way ticket to Club G’itmo for “terroristic activities”.

Agreed, her lunch looks better. Not sure I think unlimited anything is a good idea (esp. not bread or fruits, which can cause blood sugar to spike in too large a quantity.)

~EdT.

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kristin May 25, 2012 at 5:58 am

Really? I actually thought lunches had gotten better in Houston. That lunch (HISD) looks pretty horrible. We have a long way to go.
Great for Martha!

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Bettina Elias Siegel May 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm

In fairness, and as I say in the caption, that was taken a while ago – I think in 2011. But despite the food having improved I do think we still have a presentation issue sometimes!

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