9-year-old angers local government by blogging, photographing school lunches: Should all kids start?

A 9-year-old Scottish girl drew the ire of the local government by blogging and photographing her school lunches.

Martha Payne’s blog NeverSeconds chronicled the low points (sausage and bean pita pockets) and high points (macaroni and cheese) of her school lunches. Other kids from around the world started submitting photos of their school lunches too.

But last week the local government in Martha’s town banned photography in the lunch room essentially putting her blog out of business.

The Washington Post covered the controversy. From The Post:

“Under rules introduced over the past decade for British public schools, junk food is banned in vending machines, salt shakers are no longer allowed on lunch tables and deep-fried foods are strictly limited.”

“But the photos on Martha’s blog suggest room for improvement.”

“Martha, an aspiring journalist, began the blog in late April as a writing project with her father. With permission from her teachers, she posted photos of her school lunches alongside commentary on each meal’s tastiness, nutritional value, the number of mouthfuls it took to eat it and whether any hairs had been found.”

From Martha’s blog NeverSeconds on Thursday:

“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. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too. I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals either.

Goodbye,
VEG”

I’m not sure what changed but it sounds like from her Friday blog she’ll be back.

From Martha’s blog NeverSeconds on Friday:

“I think you know why I don’t have a picture today but I will have on Monday! Thanks to everyone that has helped to get my blog back on track. I would have missed writing it a lot and I’m looking forward to sharing my dinners and yours.”

“I worried yesterday that I would never reach enough money to buy a Mary’s Meal kitchen in Malawi (31 seconds!) but we have raised a total of £45,889.46 which is more than one kitchen! It could be many kitchens or one kitchen feeding many children for years.”

“A small thank you isn’t enough so here’s a big THANK YOU to you all!

See you on Monday”

Her blog has more than 5 million page views.

First off I adore her spunk and her voice. I love that she wants be a writer and is practicing her art. I love that she’s causing a stir. Good for her!

Should more kids hold their schools accountable for what they are serving by shooting it and posting the photos? Would it help improve school lunches?

40 comments Add your comment

Misty

June 18th, 2012
1:29 am

Yes! More kids should. Maybe it would encourage healthier eating. I like the idea of not having junk food in vending machines or deep fried foods- or limiting them. Also, it’s a great idea that she’s raising money to help other hungry kids. We could learn a lot from her.

A reader

June 18th, 2012
1:29 am

I read most of her blog and saw all of the pictures. I have to say that the food at her school is much better than any I have seen at my daughter’s school! And she actually rated most of the meal on the high end. She was very excited to learn that the school would allow students to have unlimited salad and fruit.

Just compare her blog to the blog by the mid-western teacher about her school lunch (http://fedupwithlunch.com/). The Scottish student seems to be in a great school compared to the mid western teacher.

I would say that YES, students should be able to photograph their food and give commentary. As a parent, I felt like I was powerless when my child told me that the hot dogs at the school “bounced” and that no one ate them, they just played sports games with them. I was able to confirm this with several of my child’s friends. But, then what?? I felt that there was no one that I could voice my concern to.

guy

June 18th, 2012
6:22 am

yes. all kids should do this. every single one. grade school would be much more productive if every child was toting around a camera and taking pictures of everything. all the time. and with the recent explosion of journalism jobs, it would be great for the economy too.

Long time educator

June 18th, 2012
7:03 am

@ A Reader – I felt that there was no one that I could voice my concern to
Every school has a principal, many have an assistant principal; there is also a cafeteria manager and she has a boss at the district level, the Food Services Director, she has a boss, the Assistant Superintendent of Operations, and he has a boss, the Superintendent, and she answers to the school board. In my district there is also a Director of Student Services to handle general student complaints. There are plenty of avenues to voice a complaint before going this route. I think Martha should have the right to write her blog, but.as a former school administrator, I always think the first thing to do with a complaint is go to the person you are complaining about and give them a chance to fix the problem before you go straight to the news, or blog in this instance.

malleesmom

June 18th, 2012
7:35 am

Unpopular opinion here but eliminate the program, parents be responsible for feeding one’s own children and be done. I get bored listening to people complain about food offered in school. Don’t like it, don’t eat it. Pack a lunch. Don’t complain about it.

Taxpayingdad

June 18th, 2012
7:55 am

@malleesmom – We parents are indeed responsible for feeding our own children. If you are a home owner or commercial property owner in your county you do pay for your kids lunch(and others) through property taxes! Therefore, your assertion that parents aren’t feeding there own children falls flat.

Augusta

June 18th, 2012
8:06 am

“Should more kids hold their schools accountable for what they are serving by shooting it and posting the photos?”

NO children should NOT be held accountable for what the schools are serving. The adults should be held accountable. They are the ones making the decisions for YOUR child as to what they should be eating.

My kids all take their own lunches.

TXMom

June 18th, 2012
8:21 am

@malleesmom – That’s a great idea, provided that you are operating under the assumption that all kids in public schools are actually being fed at home. The sad fact is that there are a good number of kids out there who receive their only hot food during the day at school, either due to neglectful home environments or parents who are simply too poor to feed their kids adequately. I’m not advocating for a nanny state at all, but it’s overly simplistic to assume that all parents are able (or even willing) to feed their kids balanced nutrition. I worked for a summer camp in high school for underpriveleged kids that provided lunch every day, and some of the kids would flat-out tell me that they never ate breakfast and that their dinner the night before was a bag of Cheetos.

S

June 18th, 2012
8:25 am

I wish my son’s lunches at Cary Reynolds Elementary in Dekalb County looked HALF this good!

nelson

June 18th, 2012
8:43 am

Absolutely, restaurants do it all the time to entice people to come in. In all fareness, the price should also be next to the food being served. Cafeterias have a budget. They cannot afford the best of everything.
If the taxpayers want better selection for their children, let them pay more.
In my opinion, the school molly-coddles students. Teach them what they need to know to get a job. Teachers want to expand their student’s minds.
That is why so many out of work people can speak so eloquently about their predicament and are so cogent in summarizing the reasons.

Voice of Reason

June 18th, 2012
9:04 am

@Long time educator

As a former school administrator you should know how long it takes ANYTHING to get through the bureaucratic red tape.

This girl took the most efficient route to get her voice heard, good for her.

malleesmom

June 18th, 2012
9:25 am

A bag of cheetos costs more than a simple meal made at home. Like Augusta, my kids pack a lunch. In our MN school, the elementary lunch is $2.45 (full price) I can easily provide lunch for less than that. Even when we lived in GA where our school lunch cost less, my girls rarely ate it. In both States, my kids commented the lunch looked gross, kids didn’t eat it at all or only ate a small portion. What a waste of dollars. Don’t fool yourself in thinking that low income kids gladly gobble that junk up. I was a substitute teacher for several years. I watched what kids ate, and what went into the garbage. If adults want “better” food, then be willing to pay for it. There are private companies that provide lunch for schools. Yes, it is expensive. Nothing is “free”. Nothing is “fair” Anything worth having comes at a price.

Shark Punch!

June 18th, 2012
10:33 am

So can I post pictures on my blog highlighting students who are playing with their cellphones, updating Facebook, or otherwise not paying attention during class? Or does accountability only swing one way?

catlady

June 18th, 2012
10:35 am

Taxpaying dad: If you live anywhere besides in a graveyard, under a bridge, or in a homeless shelter, you pay property taxes! Do you think landlords just “eat” the cost of property taxes? Or, don’t you imagine, the include the cost in the rent, and even, frequently, make a nice little profit, too?

malleesmom: The 70% free lunch kids at my school gobble down breakfast and lunch. Nowadays kids have more choice in their selections, and they tend to pick things they WILL eat. Most of the rest buy their lunch, but we have a small group who brings from home–mostly plastic junk foods.

Our school lunches went south fast when we switched from individual-school planning to system-wide planning. We used to have REAL food; now it is just a question of which day will be pizza day, and which day will be hamburgers or hotdogs or corndogs. The other 3 days will be some kind of “chicken”–generally heavily breaded or frequently in a taco. Vegetables will be overcooked. Love the salads and fresh fruit, however.

TXMom

June 18th, 2012
10:36 am

@malleesmom – You’re missing my point. It’s not that it’s cheaper. When you have absent parents, the bag of Cheetos is really all a 7 year old can find in the house to eat for dinner when Mom and Dad are out doing God knows what. Are you really saying “tough” to these kids due to the fact that their parents are neglectful? That’s astounding if you are, quite frankly.

Techmom

June 18th, 2012
10:38 am

@A Reader – the photos on the blog you posted look way worse than the girls’ blog. Does that school microwave everything? The lunches look like a microwave meal gone bad.

If taking pictures is what gets things noticed and changes implemented, then so be it. I think inviting the superintendent to lunch would be a good idea too.

FCM

June 18th, 2012
10:51 am

After those teens in NC filmed that psycho History teacher (who obviously did not know history) I am surprised video phones are allowed in school at all.

Obviously we cannot let the young people think or have a voice. If they do then how do we keep creating the sheep?

Sammy

June 18th, 2012
10:53 am

The Scottish school board reacted like all bureaucracies do to being held accountable… they squirmed away by making the person they are supposed to be serving the criminal. It is a natural progression in which the government stops seeing itself as the servant and rather sees itself as entitled to being protected from criticism and from real accountablity. Companies who feel like they are an institution do the same thing to customers all the time. Most of the time, customers can just leave.

Mike

June 18th, 2012
10:58 am

tell the little turd to eat it or shut up. Everyone wants the government to provide them with everything

Becky

June 18th, 2012
11:52 am

@catlady..I guess, I read taxpaying dad’s post wrong? Looks to me like he is saying that schools lunches are paid for by property taxes..

My two take lunch sometimes and sometimes they eat school lunches..They usually have decent choices..She eats a lot of salads, when they are offered..So until they start hating every lunch that is offered, they will keep eating school lunches..

Roberta Higginbotham

June 18th, 2012
12:06 pm

When our daughter attended elementary school in Gwinnett County, as her parents we could visit the school and eat lunch with her in the cafeteria any time we wanted, which we took advantage of quite often. The cafeteria provided several dining options, and in my opinion the food served to the children was decent.

mark

June 18th, 2012
12:07 pm

What are schools to do, when some feed up to 80% of the schools population, breakfast and lunch, for free or less than fifty cents? Some schools even feed them dinner!! Until society comes to grips with the fact public schools are the safety net for many minors, these stories will continue. Without schools feeding and providing medical, dental and vision assistance, many students would fall further behind. We get what we pay for!! Raise my property taxes and support education . This states education system is at the bottom, because the public refuses to fund it. Stop blaming the teachers, blame the elected officals who continue to cut funding, lower taxes and send our money out of state to private companies.

Kat

June 18th, 2012
12:21 pm

She began this blog as a writing project, not as a “bash the lunches” project. She got permission to write it from her teachers. Should kids here have cameras? I don’t think so, but I bet they would bring them in anyway.

Jeff

June 18th, 2012
12:24 pm

I think the original question was something along the lines of “should this child be allowed to post pictures of her lunch”?

Absolutely.

It the government is embarrassed by what they are putting on the plates of our children, then let them be embarrassed.

Long time educator

June 18th, 2012
12:42 pm

@Voice of Reason,
I think in any complaint situation, it is the fair and right thing to do to go to the person you are complaining about first and give them a chance to fix it. However, if they ignore you, or do nothing, you always have the option of going public.

Augusta

June 18th, 2012
12:50 pm

I highly doubt this little girl acted alone. I’m sure there was a parent in the background encouraging her to do this.

Augusta

June 18th, 2012
1:32 pm

This is about a girl in Scotland and her lunches. It isn’t here in USA.

Becky

June 18th, 2012
1:59 pm

@Augusta..It says that in the first sentence of Theresa’s post..:)

Omg

June 18th, 2012
2:19 pm

Should the tax payer bath and cloth your child too? Oh, that is right, we must have the proper clothing and use a healthy soap. Why is cheaper foods the ones that everyone hates the kids to eat.

Once Again

June 18th, 2012
2:51 pm

Nothing scares the bloodsucking vampires of government more than the sunshine.

Expose everything. Make sure that nobody is clueless as to how their money is wasted or the horrible services government provides….

…but then sit back and watch every brainwashed government lover come out of the woodwork to condemn you for exposing the truth, justify every bit of government waste by saying how much worse things would be without government and calling for more money to make government “better”.

Once Again

June 18th, 2012
2:54 pm

mark – right on cue!

A private business fails to deliver a quality product, service, etc. and consumers withdraw their money and their support and the business fails and goes out of business.

A government entitiy fails to deliver a quality service and there is a cry for them to do even more and always a cry to give them even more money. The more they fail the next time, the more they cry for more money, and so on it goes.

Some people just NEVER learn.

FCM

June 18th, 2012
2:55 pm

@ Augusta….The folks in EU are well on their way to the socialism that the certain parties would like to see here…..

Once Again

June 18th, 2012
3:12 pm

TXMom – The government schools can’t manage to do a decent job of educating kids. Does it seem like the smartest thing to add feeding children too to an already dysfunctional system.

Don’t get me wrong. I certainly appreciate the truth of your statement about parents neglecting their children, but don’t we as a society make it just that much easier for parents to do that by providing virtually everything required for raising a child? I mean we subsidize or give away free meals, free books, free schooling (grossly subsidized for virtually everyone), free transportation, free food through EBT, etc., free housing in some cases, etc. What exactly would our society look like if every girl and every boy, every man and every woman, actually had to take personal responsibility for all of these things THEMSELVES?? Or if they couldn’t , they would have to come begging for the charity of others to get by.

When you have teenage girls looking to escape a bad home life and who know that they can just get pregnant and get everything they need to set up shop in another residence with their child, what is the incentive to take personal responsibility? What if this kid instead knew that they would have to count on the VOLUNTARY charity of others insteading of thinking that money will be “mysteriously” granted to them simply because they ask? What if they actually knew that someone else had to voluntarily give up something so they could have something. Don’t you think that might have an effect on the choices they make?

Don’t you think it might even have an effect on folks if they were told that the money they were being given was STOLEN at gunpoint from someone else with children, parents, expenses, etc. so that they could continue to be irresonsible. Yeah, it might not impact everyone, but it is certainly worth a try. Now far too many think that “government” actually has their own money and cannot appreciate at all that EVERY SINGLE PENNY must be either stolen (taxation), borrowed (to be paid back through stealing at a later date), or printed out of thin air (stealing value from everyone through currency devaluation). And it is certainly worth having private organizations who specialize on delivering meals take care of breakfast and lunch for these kids.

Reality Check

June 18th, 2012
5:50 pm

@Once Again,.When you have teenage girls looking to escape a bad home life and who know that they can just get pregnant and get everything they need to set up shop in another residence with their child, what is the incentive to take personal responsibility? What if this kid instead knew that they would have to count on the VOLUNTARY charity of others insteading of thinking that money will be “mysteriously” granted to them simply because they ask? What if they actually knew that someone else had to voluntarily give up something so they could have something. Don’t you think that might have an effect on the choices they make?
+++++++++++++++++++++
I agree with you on this and I think if the grandparents knew that they were going to be stuck financially with a single mom living with them, they would take a more active part in seeing that it does not happen in the first place. We absolutely do need more personal responsibility.

Leslie

June 18th, 2012
8:40 pm

Kids should blog and take photos of the disgusting and unhealthy lunches and vending machines in the cafeteria and Ben & Jerry ice cream; but the thing is this; America continues to sell and operate unhealthy restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, etc. If you want to solve an issue; you always start at the root of the problem; if you remove all the fatty foods, sweets, etc and close down all the McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Checkers, BK , etc,and only have “healthy” food as a choice at the restaurants and the schools then you will see people eating healthy, but most people given a choice are not going to choice a healthy meal over an unhealthy one (adults especially included). Another main issue with specifically American kids is they would rather sit on their behinds All day long and all Summer on Facebook, or playing Wii than actually get some exercise that’s why kids are overweight, unhealthy, have Type 2 Diabetes and high cholesterol and everything else, and half of them can’t even run down the block to save their life and parents allow them to sit around and do nothing productive at all. Again start at the “root” of these issues nothing is ever going to change overnight, but you have to take responsibility for what you are not doing in your own life and kids can only eat what their parents buy, or whats served up in the lunchroom.

RAMZAD

June 18th, 2012
9:20 pm

First, it is a stretch to assume that we have American public school students who are articulate enough to blog about the slop at government schools. I think American government school slop is safe.

homeschooler

June 18th, 2012
9:58 pm

@ Leslie…are you proposing a ban on fattening restaurants? Perhaps you need to move to NYC where the mayor is trying to ban 20 oz soft drinks. When people start making good decisions the restaurants, grocery stores etc.. will follow with healthy choices. It’s not up to anybody but me to decide where and what my family can eat.

Augusta

June 19th, 2012
7:47 am

I remember a restaurant here in the Atlanta area that was strickly “Healthy” food. They didn’t last very long……a couple of years maybe, but they aren’t around anymore……I can’t remember the name, maybe “De-lights” or something along that line.

We do not frequent restaurants, except when on vacation. Then, we don’t eat at a chain restaurant, we go local…..

Augusta

June 19th, 2012
7:47 am

Oh and Leslie, how many kids do you have? What are you feeding them?

FCM

June 19th, 2012
9:57 am

De-Lites went out of business due to bad business practices. Including a lawsuit from Wendy’s. As I recall, the lead folks at DeLites had worked for Wendy’s when Wendy’s came up with the salad bar concept, drew up the plans, and started the marketing. The lawsuit had to do with that. Then there was Hershel Walker losing his shirt on them b/c of something to do with those same people. It was a HUGELY popular chain at the time and under good business practices probably would be around today.