| Daily Mail UK
Girl, 9, who became internet sensation with picture blog of her terrible school dinners is silenced by council…only for them to make a U-turn 24 hours later after Twitter backlash
Good cause: Martha’s blog, Never Seconds, has raised more than £40,000 since she first started it
When Martha Payne started posting pictures of her miserable school dinners online, she realised it may ruffle a few feathers.
But the nine-year-old never expected her blog to spark a full-scale internet revolt after council bureaucrats tried to ban her from telling the truth about her canteen meals.
The young campaigner also could not have predicted the blog’s huge popularity would generate more than £60,000 in donations to help feed impoverished children around the world.
However, angry about the headlines Martha’s ‘NeverSeconds’ blog was generating, officials at Argyll and Bute council ordered teachers to stop her from photographing her dinners and rating them online.
Victory! Martha Payne, 9, and her father David are all smiles today after the council’s decision to make a u-turn on banning her food blog
Blog over: Last night Martha posted a goodbye message
In a post headed ‘Goodbye,’ she wrote: ‘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.’
But the officials seriously underestimated the youngster’s internet following and thousands of people, led by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, took to Twitter to criticise their decision, leading to a humiliating U-turn by the council.
Within hours of Oliver tweeting to Martha to ‘stay strong’ and urging his 2.3million followers to re-post his message, the schoolgirl’s blog became one of the top subjects discussed on the site worldwide. Critics lined up to accuse the council of ‘bullying’ Martha by trying to ‘silence her freedom of expression’ and thousands signed a petition to get them to overturn the ban.
Schoolgirl blogger: Martha Payne started the NeverSeconds blog six weeks ago, posting images and opinions about what she had been served for lunch at her school’s cafeteria in Lochgilphead, Argyllm, but last night she posted a message on the website saying goodbye to her readers
Finished: Martha’s father Dave also posted a message on the blog which has attracted 2 million hits
Supporters inundated council phonelines with complaints and also pledged thousands of pounds to the Third World children’s charity linked to Martha’s blog, smashing her £7,000 target.
Donations, from supporters all over the world, including Canada, Germany, America, New Zealand and Australia, now stand at £61,519.07.
The decision also angered Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell, whose intervention forced the council to perform a U-turn.
Council leader Roddy McCuish announced they would be withdrawing the ban with immediate effect. He said: ‘It’s a good thing to do, to change your mind, and I’ve certainly done that.’
Last night Martha’s father, Dave Payne, 39, said common sense had prevailed. ‘Martha is beaming,’ he said. ‘She came home from school with a big smile on her face.
‘She is delighted she can carry on blogging, but more so about the money being raised for the charity. People have been very, very generous. The way the world reacted to the ban is very revealing, it’s just fantastic that common sense has prevailed.’
Food for thought: Martha posted this picture on an internet blog and began to add daily snaps of her lunches, rating and commenting on them
Grim grub: Martha’s photos of her school dinner has turned her into an overnight internet sensation
Martha’s miserable school dinners look set to spark an outcry over nutrition for the nation’s children
The saga began seven weeks ago when Martha, with permission from teachers at Lochgilphead Primary School, started taking pictures of her £2 school dinners and commenting on them as part of a writing project.
MARTHA’S BLOG OBSERVATIONS
Because Martha’s home is on the west coast of Scotland, however, standards for school meals differ and widespread improvements in the rest of Britain appear not to have been applied.
Her first post included a photo of a measly slice of pizza and a lonely potato croquette, alongside a sprinkling of sweetcorn, a cupcake for dessert and a lot of empty space.
Alongside the photo, the schoolgirl wrote: ‘The pizza in the first pic was alright but I’d have enjoyed more than one croquette. I’m a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I can’t do it on one croquette. Do any of you think you could?’
Beside a photograph of a limp looking cheeseburger, two potato croquets, a few rings of cucumber and a rocket ice lolly, Martha wrote: ‘Today’s meal was on the menu as Cheeseburger and ice cream/biscuit but as you can see I got an ice lolly. I prefer ice cream. I wish they had stuck to the menu.’
Over the next two months her daily snaps gathered an impressive following, with more than two million people throughout the world logging on and sending in their own pictures for her site.
After seeing the photographs, Oliver, a veteran school food campaigner, sent a tweet to her father, which read: ‘Shocking but inspirational blog. Keep going. Big love from Jamie x.’
Martha later posted that the celebrity chef had sent her a copy of his Jamie’s Great Britain cookbook in which he wrote: ‘Dear Martha, great work!!! Clever girl. Lots of love. Jamie O. XXX Keep it up!!’
But on Thursday, Martha, whose mother is a GP, revealed that teachers wanted her to stop taking the photographs. The council said the decision was made after an article published in a tabloid newspaper, under the headline ‘Time to fire the dinner ladies’, left some members of staff at the school in tears.
In an ill-judged 500-plus word statement, they accused Martha’s blog of being ‘misleading’ and attacked her father for refusing to put an end to it.
Mr Payne, who runs a smallholding, correctly predicted the move was an ‘own goal’ which would serve only to generate more criticism because ‘the pictures tell the story about how good the food is’.
Last night the Argyll-based Mary’s Meals, the charity supported by Martha’s blog, revealed she had raised enough to build several kitchens for starving children in Malawi.
The charity said: ‘Martha’s support for Mary’s Meals has been amazing and we are extremely grateful for everything that she has done to help us reach some of the hungriest children in the world.’
Internet hit: Martha’s fearless exposé of daily fare at her (unnamed) school prompted global discussion about shockingly unhealthy food being served
Martha’s NeverSeconds blog has chalked up a million hits. She is supervised by her father David (left)
By: Liz Hull