A Scottish council has swiftly reversed its decision to ban a nine-year-old girl from photographing her school lunches for a personal blog following criticism from Jamie Oliver and a wave of negative publicity on Twitter and other social media sites.
Less than two hours after releasing a strongly-worded broadside calling Martha Payne’s pictures of the sometimes meagre and unappealing meals on offer at her primary school misleading, Argyll and Bute council had a change of heart…
The saga began when the aspiring journalist set up the blog with the help of her father, Dave. With the permission of teachers she photographed lunches as they arrived on their white plastic trays and gave the contents marks out of 10 on a “Food-o-meter” scale for how healthy they were and whether or not she found any stray hairs.
In little over a week the blog was being posted on social networking sites and had received 100,000 visitors, bringing a tweet of congratulation from Jamie Oliver.
The blog soon branched out, with Martha posting photographs of school dinners sent in from around the world – generally a much healthier selection of dishes than seen in the canteen at Lochgilphead primary school.
The problems began when newspapers picked up on the blog. Martha had been posting anonymously as Veg, but they named her and the school, often adding their own criticism of the food…
On Thursday came a post from Martha from titled simply Goodbye: “This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my headteacher 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…”
In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dave Payne said the blog had never been intended as an attack on the council. “The last photograph of a meal at school which she blogged, she gave it 10 out of 10. She enjoys the atmosphere in the school dining hall, she enjoys the staff, everyone’s been very kind to her,” he said.
Phew! Ain’t it grand when a tempest in a teacup turns out OK? The whole tale could have swung in any direction; but, common sense seems to have prevailed. Even a charity dedicated to feeding schoolchildren in Africa — which Martha supports — has received a surprising increase in donations as a result of her mentions.
I surely wish the Internet was around when I was a kid. I did a week’s suspension in high school — for trying to organize a union of members of the school band. :)