A 9-year-old school girl from Argyll in Scotland was banned from taking photographs of her school dinners.
Martha Payne was taking pictures of her school dinners to put on her blog www.neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk, where she would rate her meal out of ten on her ‘food-o-meter’ to the raise money and awareness for the Charity, Mary’s Meal which feeds hungry children around the world.
The school encouraged Martha until unfortunately they had to tell Martha that the council said she could no longer take pictures in the school canteen after the news paper, Daily Record, found out about her blog and ran a headline of “Time to fire the dinner ladies.” in the paper.
After the headline her blog went viral with over 2 million hits, but it was short-lived when local council officials banned Martha from taking anymore picture in her primary school canteen, they claimed that the newspaper article had caused distress to the catering staff and some of them had been in tears. They also argued that the blog didn’t give a full picture of the many meals they have on offer in the dinner hall at lunch time, (How many did they want her to eat a day :-)).
Martha was upset after she was told about the ban. She had started the blog in April with the help of her father Dave to raise money for Mary’s Meal and was hoping to raise enough money to buy a kitchen for the charity, but just 2 months later her positive activity in raising money for charity had to come to an end she wrote on her blog:
‘Goodbye’, ‘This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.
I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too. I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals either’. Goodbye, VEG
Her father followed up with this message on her blog entry: Hi, Veg’s Dad, Dave, here. I felt it’s important to add a few bits of info to the blog tonight. Martha’s school have been brilliant and supportive from the beginning and I’d like to thank them all. I contacted Argyll and Bute Council when Martha told me what happened at school today and they told me it was their decision to ban Martha’s photography.
‘It is a shame that a blog that today went through 2 million hits, which has inspired debates at home and abroad and raised nearly £2000 for charity is forced to end’
On Thursday morning on a radio 4 program Martha’s dad told listeners “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. with Local Mike Russell, Scotland’s education secretary, tweeting he would be writing to the council’s chief executive in his capacity as local MSP, calling for the “daft” ban to be overturned.
Argyll and Bute Council stuck to their guns and released a statement defending its position and claimed media coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.
They said: “The council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the ‘never seconds’ blog for obvious reasons despite a strongly held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils.
“However this escalation means we had to act to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing.
“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.
“There have been discussions between senior council staff and Martha’s father however, despite an acknowledgement that the media coverage has produced these unwarranted attacks, he intimated that he would continue with the blog.”
Later that day however the council turned the ban on Martha admitting they didn’t know what went wrong, it would be looked into and in hindsight accepted that the council involved should have raised the issue with the newspaper concerned rather than taking action against the schoolgirl.
Publicity caused by the ban helped Martha to smash through her £7,000 target – on thursday she had raised £2,000, by Friday afternoon total pledges where almost £20,000.
A spokesperson from the charity Mary’s Meals said: “Martha’s support for Mary’s Meals has been amazing and we are extremely grateful for everything that she has done to help us reach some of the hungriest children in the world.
“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.
What a wonderful story, we all have scratched our heads at the stupidity of bureaucrats, but on this occasion luckily for Martha with a little bit of help from her online line followers, people power through social networking reversed an unjust decision on a sweet charitable little girl.
I will say it’s clear after reading the news article that the council didn’t understand what Martha’s neverseconds blog was about, from what I could tell the fact it was for charity and was a review site of her own meals a day seemed to had gone right over there heads.
Believing instead that the blog should be a balanced, wanting the site to be a promotional tool that only show them in a good light. If they had taking the time to read the blog, they would see over all Martha likes her meal with most of her school meals getting a high score on her Food-o-Meter.
Personally I love her blog neverseconds, my favourite part is seeing all the picture of other people’s school meals from around the world and the UK.
Well done Martha :-)