THE father of a girl who was banned by her council for blogging about her school meals has met the local authority leaders to discuss ways of working together.
Martha Payne, nine, started the NeverSeconds blog six weeks ago, posting pictures and opinions about her school lunches in daily updates.
Last week the schoolgirl was told by Argyll and Bute Council that she could no longer take photos to illustrate her blog as media coverage had apparently left catering staff fearing for their jobs.
However, the council backtracked on its decision after a barrage of negative publicity in the media and on social networking sites.
Her father David met leader Roddy McCuish and councillors Dougie Philand and Sandy Taylor in Kilmory yesterday to discuss the issue.
Mr McCuish said he was pleased to meet Mr Payne and that it was “amazing that a wee girl from Lochgilphead has managed to change the way we all look at school meals, and has raised a fortune for Mary’s Meals”. Mr Payne said: “I am delighted to have had discussions with Argyll and Bute Council and we will shortly be announcing our future plans for NeverSeconds, and we are confident that even more money will be raised for Mary’s Meals.”
The controversial ban led to thousands of donations flooding in to Martha’s JustGiving site, which she set up to raise money for Mary’s Meals.
She has received just under £95,000 while her blog has attracted almost 6.5 million views.
Martha far surpassed her £7,000 fundraising target, with her total rocketing from £3,000 to the current amount after the ban.
It means a kitchen will be built at Lirangwe primary school in Blantyre, Malawi, and all 1,963 of its pupils will be fed for a year, as part of the charity’s Sponsor A School initiative.
Martha has chosen to name the kitchen Friends of NeverSeconds, in recognition of the worldwide support she has received.
Celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Nick Nairn have praised the young girl.
Raymond Blanc, who runs the Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons restaurant in Oxfordshire, said: “She has done a very simple thing – taking a photograph of her lunch and telling us what she thought of it each day.
“But she’s also done something many grown men and women might fail to do.
“She has raised awareness of the standards of food provided in most schools – tastes, textures, flavours and nutrition.
“She has also created a dialogue with schoolchildren and students across the world where we can all discover what they are eating.”
Mary’s Meals runs projects around the world where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education.
It costs Mary’s Meals a global average of just £10.70 to feed a child for an entire school year.
The charity currently provides a daily meal to over 650,000 children every school day in 16 of the world’s poorest countries, including Malawi, Liberia, Kenya, India and Haiti.