NeverSeconds blogger Martha Payne school dinner photo ban lifted

Photo of Martha's school lunch Martha gave this cheeseburger meal a health rating of 2/10

A controversial ban preventing a nine-year-old girl from photographing her school meals has been lifted following a storm of protest on the internet.

Martha Payne, from Argyll, has now recorded more than three million hits on her NeverSeconds blog.

Argyll and Bute Council said press coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.

But council leader Roddy McCuish later told the BBC he had instructed senior officials to lift the ban immediately.

The schoolgirl's father, David Payne, who helped her set up the blog, welcomed the decision.

Martha began publishing photographs of her Lochgilphead Primary School lunches on 30 April.

Martha Payne's father, David: ''It (the ban) was disappointing''

She gave each meal a 'food-o-meter' and health rating, and counted the number of mouthfuls it took her to eat it.

She had been using the blog to raise money for the Mary's Meals charity.

But in a post published on Thursday evening, Martha said her headteacher told her not to take any more photographs for the blog.

Under the headline "Goodbye", the post stated: "This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office.

Charity blog

"I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today."

The council's decision to impose the ban came after the Daily Record newspaper published a photograph of Martha alongside chef Nick Nairn under the headline "Time to fire the dinner ladies."

Martha Payne Martha's NeverSeconds blog started as a writing project with her dad

Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme Mr Payne said his daughter was not happy about the council's decision.

He added: "I understand that it's brought pressure from around the world and media interest, but that is really out of our control.

"But we are very supportive of the school - the fact that she has been encouraged to blog and she got permission to do this is testament to them.

"Everyone in the kitchens has been wonderful to Martha and she enjoys going into lunch every day."

By Friday morning, the council's decision had sparked a furious reaction on social media.

Local MSP Mike Russell, Scotland's education secretary, tweeted he would be writing to the council's chief executive in his capacity as local MSP, calling for the "daft" ban to be overturned.

Job fears

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tweeted: "Stay strong Martha" before urging his 2.3 million followers to retweet the message.

Argyll and Bute Council later issued a statement defending its position and claimed media coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.

It added: "The photographic images uploaded appear to only represent a fraction of the choices available to pupils, so a decision has been made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen.

Council leader Roddy McCuish: ''The last thing we want to do is to persecute a nine-year-old girl''

"There have been discussions between senior council staff and Martha's father, but despite an acknowledgement that the media coverage has produced these unwarranted attacks, he intimated that he would continue with the blog."

Cleland Sneddon, the executive director of community services at Argyll and Bute Council, told the BBC that school catering staff had been left "in tears" by press coverage.

However, Mr McCuish later told the BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that he had instructed senior officials to lift the ban immediately.

He said: "It is a good thing to do, to change your mind, and I have certainly done that."

Mr McCuish said he had not yet been able to inform Martha of the lifting of the photo ban, but had a meeting arranged with her father next Thursday to discuss "a way forward".

'Dinner summit'

In a BBC interview Martha's father said he was really pleased for his daughter that ban had been lifted.

Start Quote

Martha has now raised enough money to build a kitchen in Malawi for children receiving Mary's Meals ”

End Quote Spokesman Mary's Meals

He added: "She will look forward to being able to take her photographs of her food and writing about it as she has done so far."

Publicity caused by the ban helped the schoolgirl smash through her £7,000 fundraising target for the Mary's Meals charity - with total pledges of more than £30,000 being made by Friday afternoon.

The total stood at only about £2,000 on Thursday evening.

A Mary's Meals spokesman said: "We are overwhelmed by the huge response to her efforts today which has led to so many more people donating to her online donation page.

"Thanks to this fantastic support, Martha has now raised enough money to build a kitchen in Malawi for children receiving Mary's Meals as part of our Sponsor A School initiative and has broken the record for hitting a Sponsor A School online fundraising target in the quickest amount of time".

Among the pictures Martha published on her blog was one featuring her £2 lunch of a pizza slice, a croquette, sweetcorn and a cupcake.

Martha wrote: "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?"


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  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Got an idea: cut the salaries of the Councellor(s) responsible for banning the pictures being taken to zero and reinvest it back into subsadising better school dinners. Good idea? Regardless, shame on Argyle and Bute. Time to vote for a change

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Excellent. In your face, Argyll and Bute.
    You see what I did there? :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    This is completely outrageous. A child shows some enthusiasm, writing about food - and raising money for charity while stirring political debate around the world - only to be punished and told to stop. I understand why the headline might have upset people, but Martha didn't write it. Why not have it out with the newspaper? An appalling decision to ban her photography by pathetic old councillors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    The council could have made the most of this free publicity by providing excellent meals. Now the 2m visitors to this blog will just assume that Argyll and Bute council provide poor school meals. Its time they sacked their PR team.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    How dare they! I read the original piece to this the other week and loved it. Unless the girl is deliberately making the dinners appear worse than they are then she should be allowed to carry on. I thought you weren't allowed to be bullied at school?!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    I thought they were supposed to have improved, but 20 years ago they were way better than this! We can see what my daughter has chosen on a website, but according to her they regularly just make it up! Why can't parents know what their kids are really fed? Disgraceful behaviour from the council.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Martha is a STAR! She is an example of modern kids using hitech tools to learn - real initiative and she deserves our congratulations!

    The Council needs to come out from inside their little boxes and join the real world - what have they got to be so defensive about - pathetic little grey people!

    We want more youngsters like Martha! Lets hear it for Martha! YEA!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Good last thing I need is for a blogger to tell me what's in my turkey twizzler, like kebab with "special sauce" after a goodnight out something's are best not known

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    This is typical of councils up and down the country; If anyone dares to criticise them they shout them down and oppress their right to free speech because they can't stand their failings being exposed.

    This actually goes why beyond school dinners, it's goes to the heart of how we are governed.

    And Argyll and Bute Council are even frightened of a nine year old !

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Absolutely typical of small-minded local authority to 'punish' the child for offering useful 'e'-related and creative feedback. They should be ashamed of themselves but, of course, they don't have that kind of sensitivity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    I am suprised that the council have not marched her off to a gulag. Have they not heard of the maxim, "Don't shoot the messenger".

    0/10 for PR with the added note, Extreme improvment required here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Well that took 10 minutes max, Argyll and Bute are now trending No2 on Twitter, keep it up folks. Lots of angry people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    So freedom of speech is not universal? I don't see how the school/council can get away with this?! Sigh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Just to annoy them, she should continue blogging with a quick drawing instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Time to take businessmen out of education.

    End contracts with large private caterers. Let nutritionists and chefs advise on school meals, and employ cooks to prepare from raw.

    This is one of those things where the up-front cost is considered, but not the long term burden of young children badly fed for years. I had lovely school dinners at that age, and I wish society hadn't changed so much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Keep it up Martha, I dont think your school can legally stop you from photographing food. BTW that cheeseburgher meal looks pretty revolting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Just read this story & found it so inspirational: that this young person has the enthusiasm to write this blog; forgot the camera 1 day so drew her meal! Surely, this is what education is all about - doing something that you find interesting, learning & gaining incredible experiences from it.

    Then - authority deems it "inappropriate" - what is that saying in terms of providing "education"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Who knew that a nine year old could be my hero?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    All credit to her and her blog. I travel a lot on business abroad and the British diet, cuisine and attitude to food is the laughing stock of so many countries, especially in Europe. Looking at these photos, you can see where it starts. Big problem in this country when it comes to food - the typical Brit's expectations about what 'good' looks like is set so worryingly low....

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I would be ashamed to serve that meal to any child of mine - one wonders how schools get away with it and also charge a ridiculous fee for the privilege of eating what amounts to little more than a mouthful.


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