NeverSeconds school dinner blog donations soar

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

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A nine-year-old blogger has raised more than £70,000 for charity after a council overturned its ban on her taking photos of her school meals.

Martha Payne, from Argyll, has also recorded well over five million page views on her NeverSeconds blog.

When Argyll and Bute Council stopped her posting the photos, the fundraising total for school meal projects in Malawi stood at less than £2,000.

It is now more than 10-times its original target of £7,000.

Start Quote

A small thank you isn't enough so here's a big THANK YOU to you all!”

End Quote Martha Payne

The controversial ban on publishing photographs was lifted after a storm of protest on the internet.

Argyll and Bute Council said press coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs, but council leader Roddy McCuish told the BBC on Friday 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.

She gives each meal a 'food-o-meter' and health rating, and counts the number of mouthfuls it takes her to eat it.

The schoolgirl has been using the blog to raise money for the Mary's Meals charity and the publicity helped her smash through her £7,000 fundraising target - with total pledges of more than £30,000 being made by Friday afternoon, up from £2,000 on Thursday evening.

Argyll and Bute Council apologises for getting things wrong over the ban

On Sunday it stood at more than £73,000.

And speaking to the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Mr McCuish conceded a "Dark Ages" approach to new media meant the council had got things wrong.

He said: "I would certainly apologise to Martha if it's caused her any angst whatsoever and we're meeting Mr Payne on Thursday, myself and locally elected members, to see if we can find a way forward."

Posting on her blog in response to the rocketing fundraising total, Martha said: "A small thank you isn't enough so here's a big THANK YOU to you all!"

Mr Payne added: "A kitchen in Malawi costs £7,000. But there's so much extra there that it could feed thousands of children for a year.

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

"I believe it's something like £10 a year to feed a child at school and it's an incredibly small sum and so the generous support that has come in from around the world is going to make a huge difference to so many children.

"It's going to bring children into education and into a healthy meal - it's fantastic."

A Mary's Meals spokesman said: "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."

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