Remember Martha Payne, the nine-year-old food activist? This April she began documenting her school lunches on her blog Never Seconds. The reviews consisted of a photo of her lunch, a “food-o-meter” rating, a health rating, how much the meal cost, how many mouthfuls it took for her to eat it, and how many pieces of hair had slipped into her meal that day (yuck!). It didn’t take long for her blog to gain a following — especially after celebrity chef Jaime Oliver directed his fans to her blog — and she soon received hefty press coverage praising her shedding light on the deplorable nutritional value of the school lunches she documented. Anticipating a press storm brewing in the future, one of our readers predicted “that her school will somehow find a way to (attempt to) shut her blog down for not allowing photographs from inside the school or some other trumped up charge.” Well, it turns out they were right.
Intense criticism directed at the school lunch program of Argyll and Bute council spurred a ban on her taking photos of her lunch. The council maintains that this was to protect the catering staff, who worried that the outrage would lead to job losses. “The council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the ‘never seconds’ blog…however this escalation means we had to act to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing,” said a representative of the council. The council also expressed concern that the lunches on Payne’s blog only “represent a fraction of the choices available to pupils” and that she was cherry picking the worst lunches to showcase.
However, thanks to the power of immediate internet backlash on behalf of Oliver and other fans of her blog, the ban has been lifted almost as soon as it was issued and Martha will be allowed to return to blogging about her school’s lunch and nutrition. Council leader Roddy McCuish stated that “there’s no place for censorship in Argyll and Bute Council and there never has been and there never will be…it’s a good thing to do, to change your mind, and I’ve certainly done that.”
Despite the momentary turmoil, there certainly is a bright side to this situation: Payne had been using her blog as a tool to raise money for Mary’s Meals, a global school feeding project aimed at alleviating hunger and poverty. She had hoped to raise £7,000 to fund a new school kitchen. The publicity garnered by the ban and its subsequent removal has raised almost £20,000, enough to build a kitchen in Malawi. While there is no such thing as a free lunch, come hell or high water, Martha Payne is taking steps to make sure that children everywhere receive the nutrition they need.
(via BBC News.)