Not quite a month ago, 9-year-old Martha Payne’s “Never Seconds” blog was just going viral. Launched April 30th, the site had already had more than 625,000 hits, and the pint-sized activist was a media hit.
Martha set out to blog the school lunches in her Scottish primary school cafeteria. She rated them on how “great” they were, how many mouthfuls it took to eat them, and whether or not she found a hair in them. She also gave them a health ranking. Thousands of visitors were checking out her blog.
The Argyll and Bute Council was not amused, but I didn’t anticipate their next step. Three weeks after I wrote about Martha for Care2 Causes, the council forbade her from photographing and posting pictures of her school lunches.
That was not a smart move. Even before the ban was announced, the counter on Never Seconds was spinning.
On June 14th, the hammer fell. Martha blogged:
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.
Her father weighed in with appreciation for Martha’s school, which had been very supportive. The decision to rule against her photography rested solely with the Argyll and Bute Council.
Martha was disappointed. She had also been using the site to raise money for Mary’s Meal. Though the site had already raised £2,000 at that point, she had hoped to raise more for the organization that builds school kitchens and offers feeding programs for children in Malawi.
What the council had not taken into account was the power of social media. Celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Nick Nairn contacted council officials and were turned down flat. Then millions of Twitter followers swung into action, and millions more visited her blog. (The count is well over 5 million as I type.) Children around the world sent pictures of their school meals.
Council put a halt to the photographs Thursday. On Friday, council leader Roddy McCuish announced he was lifting the ban. In an interview on BBC Radio 4, he said, “It’s a good thing to do, to change your mind. And I’ve certainly done that.”
So there it is. One pint-sized activist has taken on the establishment and is making a difference, thanks to a supportive father and the power of social media. And, of course, the solid foundation of a good idea with wide appeal.
Go, Martha. You are an inspiration.
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Photo of chef Nick Nairn and Martha Payne from "Never Seconds" blog.