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 918.

    All the food served to theis young child looked terrible, compared to food served in other countries.
    We should be ashamed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 917.

    My My we can't have someone telling it as it is can we? That just won't do.
    Argyll and Bute Council hang your heads in shame. Well done Martha you are in the right. It's the adults that are in the wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    Council Comments -
    " the photographic images uploaded appear to only represent a fraction of the choices available to pupils",
    " Pupils have a daily choice of two meals "
    So whatever was posted represents 50% of what is available on the menu!

    To be fair most comments on the blog are positive, although the food does not always look appetising people accepted it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    Poor girl. She has every right to speak out about this issue and should not be banned from doing so. If she didn't provide the proof the council would just call her a liar, maybe they should do something other than cover this up? No wonder this is broken britain.
    I wonder if it would be prudent to have her food analysed for bodily fluids if the cooks were so "distressed" by her actions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 914.

    @852 Merlin fromLondon

    I made no comment or gave any opinion on whether it was fair or otherwise. I simply stated that they were perfectly within their rights to ban photography if they wished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 913.

    £2 a day for that? its not a dinner, its a between meals snack!
    £2 would have gotten me double chips and pizza from my old school and i would be nicely full after it. that girls dinner tray should be FULL, loads of mash, veg, meat e.t.c
    i cant see why the council is allowed to ban pictures being taken, i would seek legal advice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 912.

    I would be upsets if I worked there too. The trigger appears to be the need of the media to put words in children's mouths to generate a headline.

    There should be an enquiry into such behaviour....

    Carl Littlejohns

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    I see the media is trying to angle it so it is the schools fault that she has been banned when really it is in fact the Daily Records Sensationlaized Headline that has caused the problem forcing others to react. You guts are meant to report the news not make it. The Daily record should donate £2000 to compensate the charity fro the money they lost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    "In particular, 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." - well 9/10th is a fraction. It doesn't mention small fraction anywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    We should be supporting freedom of speech NOT repressing it.
    This is a shameful act by an authority who should hang their heads.
    More and more the establisment is abusing the power they have been given by the voters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    Good on her for her blog.
    Do the schools have to give nutritional information on their meals like food companies do on their packaging? If I was sending children to school I'd give them packed lunches if what was mentioned in this story is common for a school lunch.
    When I was at school we did not have choices of meals. (I’m sounding really old now)

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    9. PsyMan
    You're right. Argyll and Bute's website refuses to accept complaints

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    Again, the public sector making the law up as it goes along. How can you have a law preventing someone from photographing food. You can't. I hope that the blog starts up again. Too often schools are allowed to shrug and blame horrendous mistakes on a higher power. Kids don't need choice, they need good dinners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    Someone at Argyll an Bute Council needs to consider two phrases:

    "The Streisand Effect"


    "Don't Shoot the Messenger."

    Given that their own statement says that it is the press coverage that has caused distress for staff, it seems that the only phrase the council is aware of is:

    "Go for the Easy Target."

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    Soylent Green looks better than some of these meals.No wonder the Council didn't want photo evidence of the muck they're shovelling down these kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 903.

    I think the Council should get on with the important issues and stop wasting time and money on this kind of thing. They obviously are massively over employed or dont have enough to do !

  • rate this

    Comment number 902.

    Glad to see the licence fee is being spent on reporting issues that really matter

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    I give BBC news impartiality 1/10

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.

    Not surprised, Scotland is the tooth decay and heat attack capital of the world - so tha't something the SNP can at least say Scotland is leading on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    I must complain about how misrepresentational the BBC is being here. The one meal chosen to be pictured on the article (and one of only two directly referred to) is actually the lowest "scoring" of all the meals on that blog. If you take a minute to look at the blog you'll see most all of the meals apart from those two actually look and sound pretty fine. This makes it seem a conspiracy it is not.


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