UPDATE: Council head Roddy McCuish has told the BBC that he “instructed senior officials to lift the ban immediately.” Score one for duh.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Apparently, the one-girl truth squad known as 9-year-old Martha was too much to handle for some local UK school officials. The Argyll and Bute Council has cracked down on her blog NeverSeconds, in which Martha chronicled her daily meals at her local primary school, by disallowing photos inside the school cafeteria.
The food blog, which had previously received 2 million hits (closer to 3 million, now that it has been shut down), has been running since early May. Every day, Martha would post pictures of her school lunch complete with commentary and an official breakdown of the meal using a few standard metrics like number of mouthfuls, health rating, price, and pieces of hair.
After reading through many of the posts, it’s clear that Martha is concerned about the quality of some of her meals. But she’s not overly critical and rarely even makes negative comments on the food – she simply presents it to be judged – a minimalist food blogger of sorts.
It’s interesting reading through her blog, because if you take it at its word, it appears that the hundreds of thousands of hits it received was actually working to affect change in the school district. For instance, check out this entry from May 25th:
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…..well my friends and I never knew that. It must have been a well kept secret. Everyone is really happy about the news now. We can have fruit and a dessert, fruit if you have a starter and both salad and veg! It’s much clearer.
And this one from June 6th:
Since my blog became well read we have had a special visitor at school who wears a white coat and hair net. She looks at my food when I am walking away from the queue. I think she stays there and looks at everyone’s and then she looks at what goes in the bin when serving has finished. Not much went in the bin today!
Apparently, little Martha was creating a bit of a stir…
But just yesterday evening, Martha (or VEG as she calls herelf on the blog) signed off:
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 dad came on to clarify that it wasn’t the school that banned VEG’s photography, but the Argyll and Bute Council.
They later responded:
Argyll and Bute Council wholly refutes the unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service which culminated in national press headlines which have led catering staff to fear for their jobs. The Council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the ‘never seconds’ blog for obvious reasons despite a strongly held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils however this escalation means we had to act to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing. In particular, the photographic images uploaded appear to only represent a fraction of the choices available to pupils, so a decision has been made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen.
Distress and harm. Huh.
It appears that there is one bright spot from the blog ban. All of this publicity has boosted donations to Mary’s Meals, a charity that Martha is affiliated with. Mary’s Meals is an “international movement that sets up school feeding projects in communities where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education.” On the donation site JustGiving, Martha set up a page with a goal of garnering £7,000. As of right now, donations have hit £24,684.