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 98.

    People of Argyll and Bute MUST vote against everyone on their council at the next election. This is just ridiculous and shameful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Whatever the standard of the meals,.. and they don't look right to tempt children,.. the main point is the bullyi ng attitude of some creeps in presumed and assumed authority. They need rooting out and admonishing.

    Well done, Little Lady,.. NEVER let the dwarfs get you down.
    Love from Doc

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    "I can make fresh meat casserole with mash & green beans for £2 a head - why can't they do it in schools?"

    They have to pay wages, for a start...and how much overhead do you allocate to each meal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    This girl has paid for her lunch therefore it belongs to her so, as I see it, she can do what she likes with it, including taking photos. The Council is acting like a bully, refusing to make any comment but laying down the law. There must be some very, very, stupid people on Argyll and Bute Council. Excellent blog BTW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    When you look at her blog - it is far from negative. Most of the comments are positive and she reflects that she loves her school and, on the whole, enjoys her meals. Why would the council want to stop this from continuing? If it is the truth that the pictures convey.... I wonder!

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Whatever happened to freedom of speech?

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    I don't feel qualified to comment on the nutritional quality of VEG's lunches but looking at her blog she seems to be very positive about them.

    Her blog has attracted contributions from around the world and raised money for charity. she is a remarkably articulate and amusing 9 year old.

    An exemplary project for a schoolchild to be involved in.

    And the council put.a stop to it! Bravo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    My wife works in a school and has shown me what is served to the children for lunch. Most of it I wouldn't serve to my dog!
    I hope that this young lady can continue with her blog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Neil Theasby :

    This is certainly not universal. Our local primary in East Sussex serves top quality nosh for £2 - generally balanced and a good variety.

    I know, because I have eaten it on three occasions. So if the south of England can manage decent meals for the same money, I think someone needs to get their act together...

    Anyway - good on Martha for making this public!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Perhaps this is why the Goverment really wants the internet tracking brought in so they can track and ban people who dare to disagree with them and their cronies in the Councils?

    Well done Martha.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    I wonder if the electorate will be asked to remember this at the next round of elections. Sadly, somehow I doubt it given the rather more directed agendas of the political parties in this country and as a single issue campaign it's also unlikely to get very far. So much for democracy and freedom, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    looking at that so called food

    no wonder the council is embarressed
    who would eat that?

    the firm that provided that should be prosecuted
    if their isn't legislation - pass some
    as i imagine that is an example of privatisation

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Back in the early 60s, school dinners cost one shilling and naturally we had a three course meal with ceramic plates and metal cutlery, wholesome food with real veg, fish on a Friday etc.
    We seem to have gone backwards over the last 50 years, not forwards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    My worse school dinner was a last sitting with spam fritters, cold mash and tinned tomatoes followed by semolina...only the chocolate haystack was nice! That was 40 years ago and I am still distressed at the horror of it!

    Great she blogs, but 1) I thought phones were banned in school, and 2) Imagine if all the kids were blogging, making allegations about aspects of school it would never stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    WOW that meal is not a meal, unbelivable. This the same people that ban children taking snack food to school!

    I'm at a loss words beyond the word OUTRAGE

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime. ~ Potter Stewart

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    What happened to freedom of speech?

    Argyle and Bute council have a comments page on their website. Send them your comments and ask for a reply.

    I suspect that their real concern is that she might photograph and comment on her lessons and teachers. Are the council trying to hide something?

    And the food looks very unappetising.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Keep going! That way, your dinners, and those at other schools, might improve. It looks like one of your dinners wouldn't make a mouse feel satisfied!

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Just one more compelling reason why all schools should be taken out of local authority control. This is none of the council's business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    they cant ban her the council are not a court and don't have the right to . this is outrages what kind of society do we live in when you have to ban children from exposing the crap they are supposed to eat


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