Remember Martha Payne, the Scottish 9-year-old whose blog documenting her pathetic school lunches shamed local pols into allowing kids unlimited fruits and vegetables? Well, they decided they weren’t going to be pushed around by a little girl anymore, and sent word that she was no longer allowed to take photographs of her food.
What they didn’t count on was being pushed around by a little girl and her legions of internet fans, including Jamie Oliver. So now the council is photographing its words, then eating them. Martha’s blog, Never Seconds, lives on.
On Thursday, Martha explained on her blog that she was no longer allowed to photograph her lunches, because her blog had been generating too much media coverage:
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.Her dad clarified that this was the work of the Argyll and Bute council, not the school. A statement from the council said that press attention had “led catering staff to fear for their jobs” — not lose them or anything, just fear for them. Sounds legit. By god, if someone feels an emotion, it’s time to QUASH FREE SPEECH.
I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos.
But Martha’s blog was bigger than the council’s territory. She made changes on the home front — besides the “unlimited fruit and veg” thing, she reported a “special visitor at school who wears a white coat and hair net,” who checked what kids were eating and what they were throwing away. (I assume this was an effort to eliminate waste, but it could have been a spy from the council trying to prove that kids don’t need sufficient lunch. I wouldn’t put anything past these people.) But she also raised money for a charity called Mary’s Meals, which feeds needy kids internationally – in fact, rage-donations from pissed-off fans skyrocketed her fundraising to $35,000 (!!!) after the shutdown. And she collected photos of school lunches from around the world, some of which are pretty encouraging …
… and some of which are from America:
Those fans and others were outraged when the council tried to hide by banning Martha from taking photographs. Twitter exploded, including a bazillion retweets of this message of support from Jamie Oliver:
Wired’s story on the shutdown also included contact info for the Argyll and Bute council, so even politicians too senile to use Twitter undoubtedly got an earful. (And I’m not saying the Argyll and Bute council is dumb, but its criticism of this blog by a single small child documenting what she herself ate for lunch was that “the photographic images uploaded appear to only represent a fraction of the choices available to pupils.” No way, really?)
Result: The council has realized that it should maybe quit bullying a little kid out in public. One of the council leaders announced, “There’s no place for censorship in Argyll and Bute Council and there never has been and there never will be [except for a little while yesterday before Jamie Oliver stuck his nose in].” Martha gets to take all the pictures she wants.
Blog on, Martha. The internet has your back.
Jess Zimmerman is the editor of Grist List.