LONDON (The Blaze/AP) — A 9-year-old blogger won a food fight with authorities in her Scottish town Friday, after an online outcry prompted officials to lift a ban on posting photos of her school lunches.
Martha Payne’s images of uninspiring school meals – one consisted of two croquettes, a plain cheeseburger, three slices of cucumber and a lollipop -drew international attention. The blog — NeverSeconds — set up about six weeks ago as a writing project and to help raise money for a school-meals charity, has drawn more than 2 million hits.
Martha, who lives in the coastal town of Lochgilphead, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) west of Edinburgh, gave each meal a “food-o-meter” rating, and offered an assessment of its contents.
“I’d really like to know where the chicken comes from,” she wrote in an entry about chicken fajitas, “so I am going to write to the lady in charge to ask. I know it comes from a hen but I’d like to know where the hen lived.”
Recently, local and worldwide news picked up on Payne’s blog, which alerted school officials to her unappetizing photos and criticism of the food. The school ordered the schoolgirl to stop taking pictures.
In a statement, Argyll and Bute Council said Payne’s photos were misleading and had caused distress to cafeteria staff. The council was particularly irked by a report about the blog in Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper headlined “Fire the Dinner Ladies.”
The council complained of “unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service” and said the blog “misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils.”
As a result, it said, “a decision has been made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen.”
On Thursday, Martha wrote a final post on the blog “Goodbye” and her father later elaborated upon it:
This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.
I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too. I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals either.
Veg’s Dad, Dave, here. I felt it’s important to add a few bits of info to the blog tonight. Martha’s school have been brilliant and supportive from the beginning and I’d like to thank them all. I contacted Argyll and Bute Council when Martha told me what happened at school today and they told me it was their decision to ban Martha’s photography.
It is a shame that a blog that today went through 2 million hits, which has inspired debates at home and abroad and raised nearly £2000 for charity is forced to end.
To be fair, the blog frequently positive assessments as “lunch was really nice today and it helped cheer me up.”
The ban quickly became an online talking point Friday, with free speech group the Index on Censorship even weighing in on Payne’s behalf. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tweeted “Stay strong Martha” to his more than 2 million followers.
The Internet storm was quickly followed by an official U-turn. Council leader Roddy McCuish said he had ordered officials to lift the ban on cafeteria photos.
He praised Martha as “an enterprising and imaginative pupil.”
“There is no place for censorship in this council and never will be whilst I am leader,” McCuish said.
Amid the blaze of publicity, donations to Mary’s Meals, the charity the blog had been promoting, climbed from 3,000 pounds ($4,700) to almost 20,000 pounds ($31,000) Friday.
Still, an update has yet to be made to Martha’s blog after yesterday’s goodbye.