A school lunch in Argyll, Scotland. Martha Payne, a nine-year old student there, started taking pictures of and blogging about her food in April of 2012.
When nine-year old Martha Payne began a food blog last year,
chronicling the paucity of her school lunches, she was not prepared to
become a social media star. Payne’s blog, entitled “NeverSeconds,”
began as an innocuous school project that showed pictures of her
cafeteria meals in Argyll, Scotland, along with a “Food-o-meter” rating their healthiness on a
scale of 10. Suffice it to say, not many got close to 10. The school
was initially supportive of Payne, an aspiring journalist whose dad
helped her construct the website. Within a week, however, NeverSeconds,
was being posted on social networking sites and receiving 100,000
visitors a day, earning her a congratulatory tweet from celebrity chef
Jamie Oliver. National media was soon running headlines like “Time to
fire the dinner ladies,” with Payne and her school identified.
A few weeks after the blog started, Payne was ushered into the head
teacher’s office and told she could not take any more photos of school
dinners. It transpired that Payne’s local council, Argyll and Bute, had
reacted to the adverse publicity by imposing a ban. As ever, the
cover-up proved to be worse than the crime. The council’s censorship
provoked an even greater backlash. Two hours later, a shamed council
leader, Roddy McCuish, appeared on national radio to announce the
immediate reversal of the ban.
“There’s no place for censorship in Argyll and Bute council and
there never has been and there never will be,” told McCuish on BBC Radio
“I’ve just instructed senior officials to immediately withdraw the
ban on pictures from the school dining hall. It’s a good thing to do, to
change your mind, and I’ve certainly done that.”
Let’s hope that contrition extends to improving the school meals in
his schools. In the meantime, Payne has raised enough money, through her
charity, Mary’s Meals, to build a new kitchen at a school in Malawi. Her blog continues at NeverSeconds.