Growing up I was lucky in being able to bring a packed lunch to school (even if I was sometimes jealous that I couldn’t always participate in pizza and chocolate milk Fridays). If you happen to go to school where the norm is to purchase your lunches on the premises and you worry about healthy choices, you might find an friendly advocate in Martha Payne, a 9-year-old from Scotland who was fed up with her skimpy and sometimes gruesome school lunches (she once found a hair under a cucumber!). “They’re a wee bit small and sometimes they’re not very nice either,” she told the BBC about her school lunches. Martha’s family pays £2 per day for the meals.
In a case emphasizing how even one voice can start a change, Martha has helped to highlight how her school lunches weren’t sufficient for a growing body and its ability to focus on school work. With the help of her father, David, Martha set up a blog called Never Seconds detailing her lunches at Lochgilphead Primary School. Martha rates each meal on health and taste (what she calls the Food-o-meter). She also keeps a tally of mouthfuls, courses, price and unexpected additions (such as the hair under the cucumber noted above).
Her blog has a following of nearly 1.5 million people with photos of school lunches being submitted from around the world. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, an advocate for healthy school lunches, has praised Martha. He sent her an autographed book with the praise “Great work, cleaver girl … keep it up.” And, after garnering international media attention, David met with the school council.
Council spokeswoman Carys Wynn-Mellor maintains that changes were already underway with pre-ordering systems being implemented, and noted that salads, vegetables and fruit are always available – something Martha has blogged as having never known.
If you are similarly finding your school lunches unhealthy or unpalatable, speak up! You probably aren’t the only one feeling that way.