Schoolgirl Blogger-Critic Wins Heated Food Fight

By Ines Novacic

Jun 15, 2012 3:36pm

 

Martha Payne, 9, is one happy girl after a turbulent 24 hours. Her council in Scotland has lifted a controversial ban imposed Thursday that prevented her from including photographs of food in her blog “NeverSeconds,” documenting her school lunches.

Media coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs, a representative of the Argyll and Bute Council said earlier today. But Council leader Roddy McCuish recently issued a new statement, saying, “There is no place for censorship in this Council and never will be whilst I am leader.”

McCuish added that he wanted to speak with the Payne family, in the hope that “Martha Payne and her friends will have had a strong and lasting influence not just on school meals, but on the whole of Argyll & Bute.”

Martha has been snapping pictures of almost every school meal, and rating her plate, since April 30. Ratings ranged from “3/10″ to “10/10, noting “mouthfuls,” “price” and “health rating.” She was posting anonymously as “Veg” but local newspapers began naming her and identifying her school. The council’s ban came after a piece in Scottish newspaper the Daily Record said in a headline, “Time to fire the dinner ladies.”

Martha had published a “Goodbye” post Thursday night, bidding farewell to sharing her dinners with others: “I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too.”

She also wrote that she probably wouldn’t meet a fundraising target she had been working on for a charity called Mary’s Meals, responsible for providing food to more than 650,000 underprivileged children worldwide.

Martha’s “JustGiving” fundraising page for Mary’s Meals is linked to her blog, which has more than 2 million hits, with a new page view virtually every second.

With all the publicity Martha’s blog has received, donations to Mary’s Meals have escalated enormously. One of the charity’s chief administrators, Abeer MacIntyre, told ABC News, “We just watched with amazement today. Martha set herself the ambitious goal of raising £7,000 [about $11,000]. She’s managed to not only build a kitchen on the side of a school in Malawi, but to feed all 2,000 children at that school for a whole year.”

JustGiving tweeted today, “Congrats to Martha Payne (aka VEG) for completely smashing her fundraising target today. Here’s her page #NeverSeconds.”

Martha has attracted the support of local politicians, such as MP Louise Mensch, who tweeted this morning, “Dear @ArgyllandBute, what have you to fear from a 9 year old exposing lunch provision? reverse your awful decision.”

Even celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, a spokesman for healthier meals for schoolchildren,  offered a few kind words on Twitter: “Stay strong Martha, RT this to show your support #neverseconds.”

Martha’s blog previously inspired the Scottish chef to organize a think-tank on school meals.

 

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