|Slogan||One primary school pupil's daily dose of school dinners|
|Type of site||Restaurant review of school meals|
|Owner||Martha Payne, father David Payne|
|Created by||"VEG" an alias of Martha Payne|
|Launched||30 April 2012|
|Revenue||£130,421 via Just Giving to charity Mary's Meals|
Launched on 30 April 2012 as a school writing project with assistance from Martha's father David, the blog is written under the pseudonym "VEG" (Veritas Ex Gustu – truth from tasting), with the subtitle "One primary school pupil's daily dose of school dinners". Much like a restaurant review, it features daily entries on the £2 school meal that Martha/ "VEG" has chosen that day, her thoughts on the food and its quality, a count of the number of hairs, a health rating, a picture, and marks out of 10 based on a "Food-o-Meter".
Nine-year-old Martha's first full entry on 8 May 2012 featured a picture of a slice of pizza and a single potato croquette, alongside some sweetcorn and a cupcake for dessert. Her written comment was; “The good thing about this blog is Dad understands why I am hungry when I get home. Today he made a Banana Loaf, shame I don't like bananas, see I am not perfect!”
The blog hit local and then national headlines, after gaining support from chef and school meals campaigner Jamie Oliver, who tweeted; "Shocking but inspirational blog. Keep going, big love from Jamie x." The blog had gained 3 million hits by 15 June 2012. Martha also began featuring pictures of school dinners sent to her by children in Germany, Japan, Spain, Taiwan and the United States. The resultant traffic generated media interest, with Martha featuring as a guest on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours and later becoming the subject of an edition of Radio 4's The Food Programme. After NeverSeconds went viral, Martha's father met with the school council, which announced that all students would be allowed unlimited servings of fruit, vegetables and bread.
With the consequential revenue, Martha decided to donate the money to the charity Mary's Meals. Starting with £50 given by a magazine for the publishing rights to her images for a feature, Martha set an original target in her 19th blog post of £7,000 on Just Giving. By mid-June 2012 more than £90,000 had been raised, which the charity intends to use to build a new kitchen at the 1,963-pupil Lirangwe Primary School in Blantyre, Malawi.
Banning by council
On 14 June, Martha was removed from her Mathematics class, taken to the headteacher's office, and told that she could no longer take photographs of her food inside the dining hall. The decision had come down from Argyll and Bute Council, who had become cautious of negative press reaction and the effect it was having on school meals staff. Of particular concern was an article in the Daily Record newspaper, which had published a photograph of Martha alongside chef Nick Nairn under the headline "Time to fire the dinner ladies". In response, Martha wrote an entry entitled "Goodbye", explaining the council's decision, followed by a commentary from her father. Human rights group Big Brother Watch called the act "an authoritarian infringement on her civil liberties."
On 15 June, following a storm of protest on the internet, the council issued a press release defending the decision. However, after the intervention of local Scottish National Party MSP and Education Secretary Mike Russell, council leader Roddy McCuish told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme:
There's no place for censorship in Argyll and Bute Council and there never has been and there never will be. I've just instructed senior officials to immediately withdraw the ban on pictures from the school dining hall. It's a good thing to do, to change your mind, and I've certainly done that.
The ban was later cited as a "classic example of local government failing to grasp the power of social media", while BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones jokingly called the ban "a brilliant scheme to put their region in the west of Scotland on the map." As a result of the controversy, Martha's Just Giving total rose to more than £40,000 by the afternoon of 15 June, and to £65,000 the following day. By July it stood at £110,412. In late November 2012 it was over £123,000.
Martha Payne has received several awards as a result of her blog:
- "Public Campaigner of the Year 2012" at the Scottish Politician of the Year awards run by Glasgow newspaper The Herald.
- "Human Rights Young Person of the Year" at the 2012 Liberty Awards.
- "Veg from NeverSeconds". JustGiving. justgiving.com. 25 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
- "Eating batteries". NeverSeconds. 30 April 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- "Girl's school dinner blog becomes internet hit". Daily Telegraph. 10 May 2012. Retrieved 15 Jun 2012.
- "Tuesday 8th May". NeverSeconds. 30 April 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- "Argyll girl's school lunch blog NeverSeconds is web hit". CBBC Newsround. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 15 Jun 2012.
- "NeverSeconds blogger Martha Payne school dinner photo ban lifted". BBC Scotland. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- Emily Allen (25 May 2012). "Back for seconds". Daily Mail. Retrieved 15 Jun 2012.
- Alexandra Sifferlin (May 25, 2012). "9-year-old food blogger takes on school lunch". Time magazine. Retrieved 15 Jun 2012.
- You and Yours (14 May 2012). "School dinner portion sizes". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 15 Jun 2012.
- Sheila Dillon (16 July 2012). "The Extraordinary Food Story of Martha Payne". BBC Food Programme Podcasts & Downloads. Retrieved 16 Feb 2013.
- "9-year-old food critic shakes up school lunches". ABC News. May 25, 2012. Retrieved 15 Jun 2012.
- Maryn McKenna (June 14, 2012). "9-Year-Old Who Changed School Lunches Silenced By Politicians". Wired.com. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- "Martha". Mary's Meals. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- "Council ban school dinners blogger Martha Payne from taking pictures, then do a U-turn after outcry". Daily Record. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- David Taylor (May 24, 2012). "Chef Nick Nairn organises think-tank on school meals after seeing Scots schoolgirl's blog". Daily Record. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- "Council overturns photography ban on schoolgirl’s Never Seconds blog". Scotsman.com. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- "Goodbye". NeverSeconds. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- Asher McShane (15 June 2012). "Dinner winner!". Evening Standard. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- "[Twit Longer]". peterwalker99 (@peterwalker99). 15 June 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
- "Statement on school meals from Argyll and Bute Council". Argyll and Bute Council. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- Andrew Hough and Simon Johnson (15 June 2012). "Victory for Martha Payne as Argyll and Bute council backs down on school dinner blog ban". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 Jun 2012.
- Rory Cellan-Jones (15 June 2012). "The banning of the blog". BBC News. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- "Never Seconds". Just Giving. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- "NeverSeconds school dinner blog donations soar". BBC News. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
- McKay, Fiona (23 November 2012). "Martha's dinner book is a big hit". The Herald (Glasgow). Retrieved 25 November 2012.
- Payne, Martha ('Veg') (22 November 2012). "My trip to the Liberty Awards in London". NeverSeconds. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
- "Human Rights Young Person of the Year". Liberty Honours Inspirational Human Rights Leaders in Annual Awards Ceremony (Press release). Liberty (www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/). 20 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012. "For defending free expression when she stood up to her local council after they banned her publishing pictures of schools meals on her blog, NeverSeconds."