Last month, we interviewed 9-year-old Martha Payne while she was stirring up school council controversy by posting pictures of her insufficient lunches on her NeverSeconds blog. This week, the fate of her inspiring blog was put in serious jeopardy.
By exposing the lack of veggies and options with her school meals, Martha’s efforts prompted her school council to offer unlimited salads, fruits, and breads to students.
Boosted by reader-submitted photos from around the world, NeverSeconds garnered over 2 million hits and raised nearly £2000 for charity. She also set up a Justgiving page to raise money for Mary’s Meals, a Scottish organization that provides school meals to children in need.
“Martha Payne,” #neverseconds, and “Argyll & Bute” were trending worldwide today after Martha put up a blog post entitled “Goodbye,” revealing that the Argyll and Bute Council asked her to stop posting lunch pictures because of the negative press it was generating for the school.
Martha wrote on her blog:
This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.
I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos.
Martha’s supporters quickly took to Twitter to get the attention of the Argyll and Bute school council and ask them to reverse the ban.
— Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) June 15, 2012
— Ani (@amberanima) June 14, 2012
— sam baker (@SamAtRedmag) June 15, 2012
Isn’t this a breach of human rights/free speech? – Martha Payne ‘banned’ from taking school dinner photos bbc.in/L02AS4
— Paul Vaclik (@paul_vaclik) June 15, 2012
Re Martha Payne, If you’d like to tweet The Argyll & Bute Council about their crass and cowardly decision, they’re on here: @argyllandbute
— Helen Ayres (@Raphaelite_Girl) June 15, 2012
.@argyllandbute By silencing Martha Payne, you send a very negative message to children, and do a tremendous disservice to your own PR.
— Emma Alvarez Gibson (@ealvarezgibson) June 15, 2012
Leveraging his influence, Scottish Education Minister, Mike Russell, tweeted his strong desire for the ban to be overturned.
@ewanmcintosh : I have made it very clear to the Council Chief Executive that I believe the ban should be lifted immediately.
— Michael Russell (@Feorlean) June 15, 2012
— Michael Russell (@Feorlean) June 15, 2012
And it worked! This afternoon in the U.K., the Council officially changed its position.
Statement on school meals from Argyll and Bute Council goo.gl/fb/Habhc
— Argyll&Bute Council (@argyllandbute) June 15, 2012
— Food Revolution (@FoodRev) June 15, 2012
School dinner blogger Martha Payne photo ‘ban’ overturned ind.pn/NqZk3c
— The Independent (@Independent) June 15, 2012
As a result, Martha’s blog has received much greater attention worldwide and the pledges to Mary Meals through her site shot up to £16,000.
We can’t wait to see the obstacles that Martha tackles next. Check out our May interview with the young activist below:
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!