LONDON — What 9-year-old Martha Payne has for lunch at school has become of interest to thousands of people — perhaps even millions.
The girl’s blog, NeverSeconds, chronicles the low points (sausage and bean pita pocket) and even some high points (macaroni and cheese) of school lunches, complete with photos.
Recently a local government council in her hometown in western Scotland banned photography in her school’s cafeteria, putting an end to her project. But a worldwide outcry forced officials to drop the ban.
Martha, an aspiring journalist, began the blog in late April as a writing project with her father. With permission from her teachers, she posted photos of her school lunches alongside commentary on each meal’s tastiness, nutritional value, the number of mouthfuls it took to eat it, and whether any hairs had been found.
Some of the photos were “shocking to adults — my kids didn’t bat an eyelid — and I think that’s why the blog took off,” said Martha’s father, David.
Then on May 25 Martha wrote, “It happened today! As we lined up for lunch we were officially told that we are all allowed as much salad, fruit, and bread as we want and that we had always been able to.”
The council insists it has not made any tweaks to the school meals based on the blog.
With a month left until summer vacation, it seemed like Martha’s project would come to a screeching halt after she wrote a post titled “Goodbye,” explaining that she had been pulled out of her math class and had been told to stop taking photos of her school meals.
In a lengthy statement, the council defended the ban, saying the media attention had left the kitchen staff fearful of losing their jobs. The council also said Martha’s photos misrepresented the variety of food offered at the school.
So many people jumped on Twitter after the decision that “Martha” was trending worldwide. The number of hits on the blog leaped from 2 million to more than 5 million in one day.
Amid the torrent of bad publicity, the council swiftly revoked the ban. The council’s leader, Roddie McCuish, said, “There’s no place for censorship in Argyll and Bute Council. There never has been and there never will be.”