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And All Was Right With the World

9-Year-Old Food Blogger Banned From Taking Photos Of School Lunch, Internet Outrage Saves The Day

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.)

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  • Dessa Brewington

    That kid is awesome.

  • John Wao

    Instead of banning her hey should have teamed up with her and asked for her opinion on how to improve the meals.

  • Anonymous

    “Anticipating a press storm brewing in the future, one of our readers predicted…”

    That was me.

    You’re welcome.

  • Janet Palaggi

    “Ellen” should have her on the show to get her word out …  great job!
    and she learned some adults are simply morons.

  • Emily Hill

    Me and my younger sisters were brown baggers as the food was horrible the only time we ate it is if we ran out of things like bread kudos to this kid also agree with John Wao try working with her to make the food better and maybe she give better reviews

  • Invisible_Jester89

    “Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse doors.”

    - Tinker Vs. Des Moines

    This child has every right to speak her mind outside of a classroom, and if the meal-makers are distressed, good. Maybe they should change how they serve lunches at the school. Nobody ever grows or changes without a little challenge, and nobody ever gets anywhere without a little hard work.

  • Invisible_Jester89

     It’s a lesson that all kids should learn. Me? I learned it when my vice principal suspended me for “implied swearing” after I told a bully that had repeatedly been allowed off the hook to “Shut the fudge up.” And I don’t mean “fudge” as in the Christmas Story, “But I didn’t SAY fudge” way; I literally said “fudge” so as not to swear. The bully got off scott free, and I got suspended, probably because I dressed like a Goth kid at that point in my life and the vice principal thought I was a weirdo and “trouble kid”.

  • Anonymous

    While I agree with the sentiment, US case law doesn’t apply in the UK.

  • Anonymous

    Good for Martha! As a child, I enjoyed the school meals. They were hot and delicious. But, when I see the school lunches children eat today, I am saddened by the low quality, tasteless food they are served. So, kudos to Martha for making it a big deal. I hope other students do the same.

  • Invisible_Jester89

     Oh. This *is* in the UK, isn’t it.

    Well, f**k. I just embarrassed myself. >.<