If the name Martha Payne isn't familiar to you, then perhaps the term "nine-year old food blogger" is. This bright, young Scottish schoolgirl has been in and out of the headlines in recent weeks.
First, for her NeverSeconds blog, on which she posts a daily photo and review of her school lunch, and then again when Argyll & Bute council banned her from taking photographs, which was swiftly overturned following a major public outcry.
This bonnie young blonde, according to celebrity chef Nick Nairn, has managed to catapult the subject of school meals in Scotland to the forefront of the political agenda. Writing for Caterer and Hotelkeeper (Let's make change happen), he even goes so far as to say: "It took a nine-year old with a camera to highlight the issue of sub-standard school lunches in Scotland."
But is that fair comment? Payne is one of the 51.9% (in 2011) of primary school children in Scotland that is opting for the school meals service, up from 46.3% five years ago. And for the most part, her feedback is positive, with some dishes even achieving a "food-o-meter" score of 10 out of 10.
Nairn's well-placed passion for improving the health and wellbeing of his native Scotland is laudable, though we mustn't forget the daily efforts of those working in school meals every day and the ongoing progress being made.
Much has been written about the fact that Jamie Oliver's school meals campaign in England resulted in reams of negative press and take-up nose-diving, which threatened the very service he was hoping to save. So let's hope that while eyes are kept firmly on the ball, the success stories can still be celebrated.
The hospitality industry should embrace the enterprising spirit and enthusiasm that young Martha Payne has so clearly demonstrated.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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