Martha Payne is my new heroine. The Scottish girl is only nine years old, but she's already done her part to expose poor nutrition for youth, helped bring cash to a charity, and stood up to the powers-that-be who tried to keep her quiet.
Martha's controversial mission? She posted photos of her school lunches on her blog, rating each one according to taste, nutritional value, price and how many hairs (hardly ever) were in the food.
First, Martha deserves points for using social media for something valuable and entertaining. She's not cyber-bullying. Nor is she posting absurdly self-centered "updates" about what she was doing or thinking right at that moment. No, these photos are useful, since they serve as a bonding mechanism for schoolkids around the world and give us all fond (or not-so-fond) memories of our own elementary school cafeterias.
Who among us did not tangle with the lunch ladies and their wares? The gluey puddings, the cottony bread and the meat—make that "meat"—that all looked alike, no matter what its billing. In my elementary school, a number of my fellow students ate white rice with canned gravy on it. I'm hoping this was just a regional thing and not a common lunch side dish around the country.
Good for Martha, for bringing attention to what students actually are given to eat at school. And good for her, even more, for directing donations to the website to her food charity, Mary's Meals. The bad behavior was on the part of adults, who told Martha last week she was no longer allowed to publish the sometimes-unflattering photos of her lunches. Fortunately, after an Internet outcry, the Scottish officials retreated.
But what a terrible lesson to teach a young girl—that she cannot expose bad behavior or questionable nutrition choices by her school. It's a pretty chilling message to send to a young person in any democracy. Fortunately, adult officials had Martha's example to guide them. And young Martha, one hopes, can be even more effective when she reaches adulthood.