What a Payne!

Published: July 11, 2012

By Jim Lichtman
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Martha Payne is amazing!

On her first day in school, the Scottish nine-year-old pictured and posted a review of her school lunch online. Below a photo of a small pizza, cupcake, some sweet corn and a single, reconstituted potato croquette, Payne wrote, “I’m a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I can’t do it on 1 croquette. Do any of you think you could?”

“…almost a month later,” the New York Times reports (June 15), “nearly four million people had viewed the blog [NeverSeconds] Martha started in the town of Lochgilphead, where she lives with her family on Scotland’s west coast.”

While the likes of chefs Jamie Oliver and Nick Nairn have talked about the need to change school menus, “it always gets dissipated,” Narin said. “What Martha has shown is that the way to effect change is to do it like this.”

“Martha’s father, David Payne,” the Times writes, “said… She rates her meals on five criteria — number of mouthfuls, courses, healthiness, price and the presence of unwanted hair. Sometimes, she said, the food is good. But it was Martha’s color photographs of unappetizing-looking cheeseburgers, pasta with ground beef and other dishes that caught the attention of students and parents around the world. ‘They should all be Type 2 diabetics by the time they graduate eating all these carbs,’ one commenter wrote. Mr. Payne said his daughter’s posts ‘shocked’ him. ‘I know the menus meet government guidelines and things,’ he said. ‘I just thought it was going to be better than it was.’ ”

According to an article in the London Telegraph (June 17), “Despite an international outcry, led by [chef Jamie] Oliver, the local authority initially refused to back down and accused the nine-year-old of ‘misrepresenting’ the menu options available. Eventually, it was forced to back down.”

But here’s what puts Martha in the “great” category: “The publicity has brought a flood of donations to Mary’s Meals, a charity that feeds children in 16 countries. The $77,000 Martha has raised will build a canteen in Malawi, where children will be served a kind of fortified porridge… a charity spokeswoman said. She would not compare its merits with the meals at Martha’s school.”

Apparently, while the nine-year-old is interested in improving the quality of her school’s lunch fare, she’s more committed to feeding the hungry in another country!

According to the Telegraph, “David Payne, her father… said his daughter remains unfazed by the global attention… ‘Since this started, we’ve had offers to appear on television shows from all around the world – daytime TV from Japan and from America. We’ve had Hollywood agents talking about a book and TV and maybe a film… But we’ve turned them all down. Martha will be back in school on Monday and no doubt writing her blog.” However, she and her fellow pupils at Lochgilphead Primary School have agreed to help the council create a new menu.

“Mr. Payne added: ‘I’m very pleased to hear that Nick Nairn could be brought in to help. Martha and I have already met him and we were very impressed with his drive and enthusiasm.’ ”

Dear Martha (STOP). Please come to Washington, DC, (STOP). A bunch of grown-ups desperately need your wisdom and negotiating skills (STOP). Help us, Martha (STOP). You’re our only hope (DOUBLE EXCLAMATION).

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