By Brianne Moore
Usually we applaud children who are enterprising and trying to eat well, but local authorities in Lochgilphead, Scotland took a dim view of one 9-year-old’s food blog, which depicted photographs of her school meals.
Martha Payne started taking the photos and set up her blog six weeks ago to raise awareness and money for Mary’s Meals, a charity that sets up school feeding projects in impoverished communities around the world. Martha would take pictures of her lunches and rate them on health, taste, and the number of bites it took to finish the meal. As the blog went viral, students from around the world started sending in pictures of their school lunches, which Martha posted alongside her own.
Although Martha was generally full of praise for the school lunches, Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper portrayed her as being highly critical of the meals. The Daily Record’s articles caught the attention of the Argylle and Bute Council, which ordered Martha to stop taking photographs of her food, as her blog had upset the lunch ladies and was misleading, since it only showed what Martha herself was eating, not all the meals that were available.
Martha wrote one last entry on her blog, explaining why she wouldn’t be able to post anymore, and the internet exploded in outrage. Celebrity chef and school meals advocate Jamie Oliver tweeted his support to more than 2 million followers, a free speech group stood up on her behalf, and even the Scottish Labour party’s spokesman for children and young people applauded Martha’s blog, which has helped raise thousands of pounds for her chosen charity. In the face of the immense backlash, the council finally backed down and lifted the ban on photos in the cafeteria, just hours after putting in place.
It’s unclear whether Martha will continue to write her blog, but there is a definite silver lining to the brouhaha: Donations to Mary’s Meals have now passed 36,000 pounds, more than 500 percent of Martha’s original goal, enough to build an entire kitchen in Malawi.