#320 Nine-year-old challenges unhealthy school lunches

Nine-year-old Martha Payne has tapped into the healthy foods Zeitgeist. Since April 30, when she posted her first blog entry on “Never Seconds: One primary school pupil’s daily dose of school dinners,” the site has had more than 625,000 site visits. Her site is popular on Twitter, and she’s become a media hit.

Martha set out to blog the lunches at Lochgilpead Primary School in Argyll, Scotland. She rates her lunches on a scale that includes:

  • 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?

The first lunch she photographed ranked 6 on the Food-o-meter, 4 on health. Her comment about it was classic kid:

The pizza in the first pic was alright but I’d have enjoyed more than 1 croquet. I’m a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I cant do it on 1 croquette. Do any of you think you could?

By May 15th, the site had received so much media attention the local Council showed up at the school, along with a reporter. Jamie Oliver caught wind of the blog, tweeted it to his thousands of followers, and sent her a signed copy of his “Great Britain” book of recipes, calling her a “clever girl” and telling her to “Keep it up!!”

Apparently the Council was not amused and went on national radio to accuse Martha of simply making bad choices. That did not sit well with the Argyll Rural School Network (ARSN). On May 16th, the ForArgyll Web site posted the ARSN press statement:

The revelation that some children in Argyll & Bute are being fed inadequate meals at school is of huge concern to ARSN.  Equally appalling is the Council’s response which was to use national radio to blame a 9 year old and her parents.  This is symptomatic of a council unable to treat, and respond to, criticism in a constructive manner.  Rather than look into the problem they simply shoot the messenger.  We are aware that some of our schools deliver first class lunches for all their pupils and see no reason why this child should settle for less.

Though the Argyll and Bute Council insists the lunches meet government guidelines, the shame game may be having an impact. Martha ranked her May 17th lunch a 6 on the Food-o-meter and a high of 9 for health.

Her lunch has a long way to go before it matches the healthy choices in a photograph sent to her by Annie from Taiwan. Still, if she keeps posting and people keep checking out her site, this 9-year-old food champion will become the best ally of healthy school food since Jamie Oliver.

First published on Care2 Causes

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