Martha Payne, who set up her NeverSeconds blog six weeks ago with the help of her father for a school project, gave her meals marks out of 10 on a “Food-o-meter” for healthiness and the presence of stray hairs.
The site became an internet sensation within the week, receiving 100,000 visitors and earning Martha a congratulatory tweet from Jamie Oliver – all of whom reacted angrily to news that Argyll and Bute council had banned the blog for generating negative press. Oliver tweeted: “Stay strong Martha.”
As recently as Friday morning the council had criticised Martha for what it called “unwarranted attacks… which culminated in national press headlines” that have apparently led to catering staff at Lochgilphead primary school “fear[ing] for their jobs”.
As Martha, who blogs as “Veg”, explained in her “goodbye” post on Thursday: “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.”
But responding again to negative press – this time over its heavy-handedness and censorship – the council performed a U-turn by Friday afternoon, allowing Martha to continue uploading pictures to her blog, as well as to feature images sent in by children from all over the world, often of infinitely healthier and more appetising-looking school dinners.
Martha had also been fundraising through the site to buy a kitchen for Mary’s Meals, a charity that provides food for schools in east Africa, and the council’s overreaction had one unforeseen positive outcome: after it imposed its ban the donations began rolling in, jumping from £2,000 to £19,000 within days.
The total stands currently at £85,000, with the first kitchen of what looks like many named in honour of Martha.