Twenty-Something Science

The 5 things I learned from Veg and the Never Seconds blog

How one Scottish pre-teen taught the world a lesson about eating well

June 22, 2012

If you have yet to hear of the Never Seconds blog, stop reading this and go make a Twitter account now. For the rest of you, I will shortly recap the fabulous story so that we can all pause for a moment and appreciate the fact that sometimes humanity does darn well. (You can also appreciate this fact here.)

Veg is the pen name of Martha Payne, a Scottish 9 year old who was quite fed up with her school lunches, or “dinners” as she endearing calls them. She was sick of explaining her dissatisfaction to her parents, and needed a better way to explain why she was so hungry when she would get home from school. So, she started taking photos of her dinners and blogging about them, including hilarious stats such as how many mouthfuls each was, how healthy it was and how many hairs were found per meal. The blog was named “Never Seconds” because she never got seconds at dinner (cue sad Oliver-induced sympathy here). She immediately started attracting attention — getting over a million viewers in less than two months and also receiving several submissions from other people across the world documenting their lunches too. She even started using her blog to solicit donations for Mary’s Meals, a charity that provides meals for underprivileged children. Talk about a grand success.

And then tragedy struck. Martha was taken out of “maths” to be told she could not keep taking photos of her food, per the commands of her school’s overseeing board, Argyll and Bute. Martha posted an incredibly sad post, followed by a further plea from her father, and Twitter exploded in defense of the nine-year-old’s freedom of speech. Soon after, the council leader reversed his decision, and Martha is back to blogging, fundraising and even cooking with celebrity chef Nick Nairn. She even got the school to reinforce their forgotten policy that kids can have all the fruits, veggies and bread they want. Huzzah, world.

The top five things we can learn from Martha and her Never Seconds debacle.

1. Kids actually care about what they’re eating for lunch. They want something that is yummy, but also makes them feel good and full. Any reinvention of kids’ lunches without input from the people eating them makes no sense, and the Never Seconds blog has been brilliant at starting an international conversation about school lunch.

2. Carbohydrates are not considered evil in other parts of the world, hence the addition of unlimited bread, along with fruits and vegetables, to the students’ lunches. And nor should they be. While the low-carb craze may have caused a lot of Americans to see carbs as empty calorie burdens, they’re actually important sources of energy.

3. Censorship is bad. Most people agree. Sometimes Twitter can be used for the collective good, instead of as a reminder of how much news there is that you don’t have time to read.

4. You should donate to Mary’s Meals. As Veg notes, “There have been some comments on the blog saying I am lucky even to get a meal at lunch. You are right. That’s why my friends and I set up Charity Children to raise money for Mary’s Meals. We planted plants and decorated their pots. We made cards, felted soaps, necklaces and friendship bracelets. We sold these at school and raised £70. I was given £50 by a magazine that wanted to print my pictures so I decided to give it all to Mary’s Meals. I really like the fact that Mary’s Meals feed so many children everyday. I think it encourages children to go to school as well as giving them a healthy meal. My dad has set up a Just Giving page where I have put my money. I can’t make you all felt soaps but please join me in helping give lunch to children that really need it.” Poignant for a 9 year old.

5. Sometimes starting a blog actually works in terms of getting you national media coverage and launching a career in journalism. It did for Brian Stelter, and Martha will probably soon be offered a position as a food critique for some big paper. Probably. Note: Usually it doesn’t work.

About the Author

Susan E. Matthews

Susan E. Matthews is trading the hills of New Hampshire for New York City, as she comes to SHERP straight after graduating from Dartmouth College. As an environmental studies major, she worked in a biogeochemistry lab and traveled through southern Africa. She found her true passion, however, in writing for and ultimately being editor-in-chief of Dartmouth’s daily paper. SHERP provides a lovely solution to bridging her two interests, and she can’t wait to get back to the reporting side of journalism. Follow her on Twitter @_susanematthews


1 Comment

Cass says:

It isn’t a carbohydrate problem, really. It’s just that the wheat we buy is of poor quality and makes people sick. It is in everything. That’s why there is a surge in Celiac Disease. Children with ADD and other disorders, including Autistic Spectrum Disorders show improvement when wheat is removed from their diet, and adults have fewer digestive problems.

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