London - It is hardly food for the hungry – a cheeseburger, two potato croquettes, tiny slices of cucumber and a lolly.
Now nine-year-old Martha Payne’s miserable school dinner looks set to spark an outcry over nutrition for the nation’s children – and has turned her into an overnight star on the internet.
The fair-haired schoolgirl posted a photograph of the pathetic offering online as part of a writing project she and her father started.
It began with a snap of a similarly measly meal – a slice of pizza and a lonely potato croquette, alongside a sprinkling of sweetcorn, a cupcake for desert and a lot of empty space.
She posted the picture on an internet blog and began to add daily snaps of her lunches, rating and commenting on them.
When she first checked her NeverSeconds website for reaction, it boasted only three hits.
This week, http://neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk/ was trending on Twitter – and chalked up an astonishing 40,000 hits.
Martha, who is supervised by her father, said: “I was gobsmacked. I never expected to get so much interest.”
And the food? “It’s usually pretty horrible,” she said.
“I’d like them to serve more, and maybe let some people have seconds if they want to... and not serve stuff that’s a wee bit disgusting.”
Her campaign to improve school dinners echoes the one spearheaded by Jamie Oliver.
Martha’s home is on the west coast of Scotland, and standards for school meals differ. Widespread improvements in the rest of Britain appear not to have been applied in her area.
But Martha’s fearless exposé of daily fare at her (unnamed) school prompted global discussion about shockingly unhealthy food being served.
One nutritionist branded the lunches “scary”. Another praised her for “speaking out”.
Martha, whose mother Rebecca is a GP, began the blog because she is interested in writing.
With permission from teachers, she photographed her £2 lunches and wrote about them. Over to Martha, writing on the blog: “The pizza in the first pic was alright but I’d have enjoyed more than one croquette. I’m a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I cant do it on one croquette. Do any of you think you could?”
She awards it six out of ten on the “Food-o-meter” but it scores only four for health.
And later she wrote: “Today’s meal was on the menu as cheeseburger and ice cream/biscuit but as you can see I got an ice lolly. I prefer ice cream. I wish they had stuck to the menu.”
Her father Dave, who manages a smallholding at home, said:”‘It really seems to have touched a nerve. I joked that it would probably go viral. I really didn’t believe it would.”
DAMNING VERDICT OF NUTRITION EXPERTS
Nutritionists congratulated the nine-year-old blogger for drawing attention to the failings of school dinners.
Kenny Tranquille, a nutritionist at UrBod Nutrition in London, said: “I think this little girl has done an excellent job highlighting the issues our children are facing in some schools.
“Eating food which is high in saturated fat like hamburgers and pizza every day will undoubtedly put these children at risk of obesity.”
Nutritional therapist Charlotte Watts said: “The token small vegetables only provide low levels of key essential nutrients.” - Daily Mail