When nine-year-old Martha Payne was dismayed by the poor quality of lunches at her school in Scotland, she grabbed a camera and took to the blogosphere to publicize the issue.
Armed with photos of icky foods and plates betraying insufficient veggies, Ms. Payne garnered international attention this spring with her NeverSeconds blog, rating each day's lunch by factors such as health, taste (or "Food-o-meter"), mouthfuls, and pieces of hair — it happens.
The impressive effort prompted Martha's dad to meet with the school council. The immediate result? Unlimited salads, fruits, and breads! Via her dad's Twitter account, Martha even received an encouraging tweet ("Shocking but inspirational blog. Keep going, Big love from Jamie x,") from celebrity chef and Food Revolution founder, Jamie Oliver, along with a personalized copy of his Jamie's Great Britain book.
Boosted by reader-submitted photos from around the world, NeverSeconds now has over 1.25 million hits and counting.
As the veggies and food options in Martha's pictures continue to grow with each day, we caught up with the young blogger to get some more information about her project and what might lie in store for a bright future.
When did you first decide to create your blog?
After I wrote an article for my class project on the Titanic I asked my dad if I could write more and we came up with the idea of a daily blog about school dinners. I got permission from school to take a camera but it ate my batteries to start with.
What kind of local and global reactions have you had?
So many people care about children's food that they have passed my blog on and it's gone around the world. Newspapers and TV companies have asked me to do interviews but my parents have said TV is too much. I have been invited to Spain and Japan. At school my friends treat me the same and I like that.
Do your friends generally feel the same way about the quality of the lunches?
Some of my friends who have packed lunches say that they are ok but people who have school dinners agree with me.
Have you found that having an unsatisfying lunch affects your school performance?
I find it hard to concentrate if I am hungry and thinking of food.
Could you further explain the wristband system of ordering food? Do you think it is effective?
You choose your lunch at 9am from the menu and get a coloured wristband. I think it is to make sure the food does not run out. You cannot change your order because you have a band. It has worked because now everyone gets what they want.
What impact can a blog like this have on schools in general?
I hope lots and lots of children blog their school lunches so parents can see what we eat. I think schools should be proud of their dinners.
Are other students taking advantage of the unlimited fruit, vegetables, and bread that you've helped implement?
No one has officially told them they can yet so its very confusing. My friends know but we are still unsure if we can have salad and veg, or fruit and dessert.
Are there any changes you would still like to see made by the school council?
Maybe they could put signs up so we all know what we are allowed. You can't always see what salads there are so you don't know what to choose.
What's your ideal school lunch?
Chicken noodle soup, Chicken curry and rice with a naan bread and a salad.
What's next for Martha and NeverSeconds?
I want to keep blogging and go on tour to try some of the lunches that people have sent photos of from around the world.
NeverSeconds on the road? Sounds promising!