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News & views

Council eats its words after schoolgirl’s eggsellent English goes global

[7 July 2012] A girl’s English project in which she blogs about her school lunches has gone global after council chiefs banned her taking pictures of them.

MarthaPayneWhen nine-year-old Martha Payne, aka Veg (left), launched her NeverSeconds blog in April, she had permission from Lochgilphead primary school on the west coast of Scotland to take snaps of the canteen lunches. She gave marks out of 10 on a ‘Food-o-meter’ scale for healthiness and lack of stray hairs.

But the miserly quantities of sometimes disgusting junk food on offer soon became an internet sensation as Martha’s pictures drew attention from celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver as well as children around the world, who sent in pictures of their usually much better lunches.

An early Martha photo showed what the Daily Mail called ‘a measly slice of pizza and a lonely potato croquette, alongside a sprinkling of sweetcorn, a cupcake for dessert and a lot of empty space’, all arranged on a plastic tray. The meals cost about £2.

Instead of improving the filth being fed to their local children, Argyll and Bute Council sent a ‘special visitor’ to lurk in the canteen wearing a hairnet and white coat to monitor what was being served, especially to Martha, and check what was being thrown in the bin.

The council then slapped the ban on Martha taking her photos. She wrote: ‘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.’

In fact, Martha’s blog has now raised £50,000 for a local charity to build kitchens for hungry children in Malawi. 

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