Wake Up Call

9-Year-Old School Lunch Blogger 1, Council Censors 0

Efforts by local Scottish authorities to silence a 9-year-old food blogger's school lunch critiques were met with such outrage that they were forced to reverse their gag order in less than 24 hours.

Martha Payne, a 9-year-old from Scotland, was dissatisfied with the quality, quantity, and human hair content of her school lunches. So, of course, she started blogging about it. She took photos of her lunch and posted them, along with a short review that included how many hairs she discovered in her food. Her blog almost immediately attracted international attention. Judging from her photos and posts, it would appear that the blog, which had the blessing of her parents and the school, had some immediate consequences. Chief among them was an Orwellian announcement that the students at her school had always been allowed to have unlimited salad, vegetables, fruit, and bread.

So, of course, government administrators on the Argyll and Bute Council tried to shut her down last Thursday. According to farewell post, Martha was pulled out of class last Thursday and informed that photography was now banned in the lunchroom. They claimed that her photos had appeared in newspapers and reflected poorly on the school.

The Internet immediately grabbed its sharpest digital pitchforks and descended on Argyll and Bute Council's webpage and twitter. Jamie Oliver announced his vocal support of her efforts, and traffic to her blog skyrocketed overnight, her hit counter jumping by more than a million views in a single day.

In response, Argyll and Bute Council did the only sensibly thing and released a dismissive statement defending its actions. Apparently, it was unfamiliar with Streisand Effect. The full text of that statement has since vanished from the council's webpage and was replaced by a kinder, gentler statement indicating that it had reconsidered its opinion and deigned to allow Martha to continue her blog. Wired is hosting screengrabs of both the original and the revised statements.

Just to be clear: Her blog is almost completely devoid of the snark and whining you'd expect from a 9-year-old. This is not a schoolkid bitching about how she can't get soda out of the water fountains or that her bowl of ice cream isn't sufficiently big enough to drown in. Her reviews are fair, and she doesn't seem to actually hate her food but merely desires that it be better. What's more, she's used her vocal platform as not only a way to spark debate over school lunches but also to raise money for Mary's Meals, a charity that provides meals to impoverished children around the world.

So good work, Internet. A government tried to censor a 9-year-old's opinion on the food she was served and ended up looking like idiots and reversing its decision.

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Ando Muneno
Contact: Ando Muneno