Jun 15 2012
A council has backed down from stopping a nine-year-old blogger from taking photos of her school dinners after the ban sparked widespread controversy.
Martha Payne was told she could no longer take the photos to illustrate her NeverSeconds blog, which has notched up more than three million views in just six weeks and won the support of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
However Argyll and Bute Council retreated on the decision after a barrage of negative publicity in the media and social networks. It sparked a massive surge in interest in Martha's blog, helping her raise tens of thousands of pounds for charity. Her blog has attracted at least 3.5 million page views.
She has used the site to raise money for Mary's Meals, a charity which runs school feeding projects in communities around the world where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education. Donations through her page on the JustGiving website rocketed from £3,000 to more than £38,000, well beyond her £7,000 target.
Mary's Meals said she has raised more than enough money to build a kitchen for a school in Malawi and feed the 2000 children there for a year. The charity will discuss how to use the surplus money with her.
Martha's blog gives a score out of 10 to each meal served for lunch at her school cafeteria in Lochgilphead, a "health rating" and even the number of hairs found in each meal - only one so far. It impressed Jamie Oliver, who tweeted: "Shocking but inspirational blog. Keep going. Big love from Jamie x."
In one entry about pizza and croquette potatoes for lunch, Martha wrote: "The pizza in the first pic was alright but I'd have enjoyed more than 1 croquet (sic). I'm a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I cant do it on 1 croquette. Do any of you think you could?"
She has not posted anything since a farewell message on Thursday which said: "This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my headteacher 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."
Argyll and Bute Council leader Roddy McCuish said he had not yet been able to inform Martha of the lifting of the photo ban, but had a meeting arranged with Martha's father next Thursday to discuss "a way forward".
He said the council had been concerned about criticisms of dining hall staff in an article about Martha's blog in the national media, but accepted that it should have raised the issue with the newspaper concerned rather than taking action against the schoolgirl.