Schoolgirl Martha Payne's shocking school dinners: UPDATED

Charlotte Morgan
by Charlotte Morgan  |  15 June 2012  |   31 comments

A new, unexpected twist to the story of a young blogger's attempts to improve Scottish school dinners...

Schoolgirl Martha Payne's shocking school dinners: UPDATED

News just in...

MORE: Cllr Roddy McCuish, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council has issued a statement clarifying the situation. You can read it here

It seems the problem wasn't with her taking pictures, but a hatchet job done on the catering staff by 'a paper'. From the statement:

There is no place for censorship in this Council and never will be whilst I am leader.   I  have advised senior officers that this Administration intends to clarify the Council's policy position in regard to taking photos in schools.

But we all must also accept that there is absolutely no place for the type of inaccurate and abusive attack on our catering and dining hall staff, such as we saw in one newspaper yesterday which considerably inflamed the situation.  That, of course, was not the fault of the blog, but of the paper.


So it seems newspapers too have been shamed by a nine year old girl's professionalism. The only person to come out of this with any shred of integrity intact is 9 year old Martha Payne herself. Out of the mouth's of babes..

Previously...

Yesterday, on Thursday June 14, 9-year-old author of neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk Martha Payne announced on her blog that she has been forced to stop writing it. Despite the millions of people who read it, and Jamie Oliver's support of her cause, Martha's local council - Argyll and Bute Council - have banned Martha from taking anymore photos of her school dinners. 

Martha's dad Dave commented on Martha's last post: "Martha’s school have been brilliant and supportive from the beginning and I’d like to thank them all. I contacted Argyll and Bute Council when Martha told me what happened at school today and they told me it was their decision to ban Martha’s photography.
It is a shame that a blog that today went through 2 million hits, which has inspired debates at home and abroad and raised nearly £2000 for charity is forced to end."

 If you'd like to let your feelings be known to Argyll and Bute Council, you can find them at @argyllandbute on Twitter. 

The British primary school pupil – who The Telegraph revealed to be Scottish nine-year-old Martha Payne – is the author of neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk, a blog which aims to highlight the sorry state of school food.

She started the school project with her dad, who tweeted this week:

@forargyll My primary school daughter is blogging her £2 school lunch experiences. I'm speechless.neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk Please comment.

— Match (@ballibeg) May 8, 2012

The pictures, one for each day, show a plastic tray with three food sections, and Martha takes the snap before she starts eating. Martha, who says that “the good thing about this blog is Dad understands why I am hungry when I get home”, reviews each meal according to its taste, health rating, price (always £2), and number of stray hairs found in the food (none, to date!)

What’s so startling about the photos are a) the measly portion sizes, and b) how processed the food is. Let’s take one day at a time…

Day 1 – pizza

school dinner…with a single potato croquette, a sprinkling of sweetcorn, and a fairy cake. A yellow feast. As Martha herself says, “I’m a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon, and I can’t do it on one croquette. Do any of you think you could?”

Martha’s health rating: 4/10

Day 2 – cheeseburger

school dinner…with two croquettes (hurrah!), three slivers of cucumber and a rocket lolly. Martha was given her cucumber portion after saying no to peas. Perhaps a very slight improvement on pizza day? Still overwhelmingly artificial - and so yellow!

Martha’s health rating: 2/10

Day 3 – mince pasta

school dinnerMartha approves. “The soup was brilliant - we don't have carrot and coriander soup very often!” Still less than 50 kernels of sweetcorn, and a very stodgy looking pile of pasta. In total, Martha counts that her entire school dinner took 64 mouthfuls to eat. 

Martha’s health rating: 5/10

What you thought

Lovefood.com was one of the first to break the story on our Facebook page yesterday. Here’s what some of you said…

Viviann Campbell: The attempt at presenting a few slices of cucumber as a veg in the second meal is laughable. I realise kids eat what they want a lot, but kids are probably more adaptable than adults.

Julie Mayor: Why do we feed our school children like prisoners? Bring back real plates and proper knives and forks!

Nicky Whiting: I think school kids get less spent on their dinners than prisoners. Those plastic trays should be banned - how does that educate a child about the importance of a good meal and the social aspect of sitting down at a meal?

And on twitter…

Carly Rushton: @lovefood Oh my god! Someone please tell me that's not for real?! Totally shocked!

Tom Leighton: @lovefood That is shocking! You can't feed children that! Did you tell Mr. @jamieoliverabout this blog?

A hit

According to The Telegraph, when Martha first checked her blog late last month, it had only received three hits. But on Thursday (May 9), it had risen to a staggering 40,000 hits! It’s now trending on Twitter too, and people are comparing her to Jamie Oliver, who has also campaigned for healthier school dinners.

Because she lives in West Scotland, the school dinner standards which Jamie Oliver helped push through for Britain have supposedly not been applied to her school, which still remains unidentified.

What do you think of Martha’s blog and the food she has to eat every day? Talk to us in the Comments box below.

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