Council won't change food despite pupil's lunch blog

22nd June 2012 at 01:00

The council plunged into an international storm over a nine-year- old's online blog about her miserly school meal portions said this week it had no plans to change the food it offers.

Argyll and Bute Council told TESS it was satisfied its pound;2 per head school meals were of the highest possible quality, offered a choice of main courses and unlimited bread and milk.

It had never received a complaint about school meals until Martha Payne's father, David, got in touch earlier this month - a move that only took place after his daughter started her blog, "NeverSeconds" - said a spokeswoman.

Her claim, however, appeared to contradict a statement from council leader Roddy McCuish, who not only promised "a school meals summit" later this summer but also that Martha would have a "strong and lasting influence not just on school meals, but on the whole of Argyll and Bute".

Martha, a pupil at Lochgilphead Primary, started her blog less than two months ago rating meals out of 10, and recording the number of mouthfuls, courses, price and even number of hairs found in them.

The blog quickly became an internet sensation. But its popularity soared last week when it became the world's third most talked-about subject on Twitter after the council banned Martha from taking any further pictures of her school meals.

In a post last Thursday headed "Goodbye", she wrote: "This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my headteacher 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."

The tabloid headline had read, "Time to fire the dinner ladies". Canteen staff were "devastated" by the bad press, said the council. A day later, however, the decision was reversed by Mr McCuish in response to an international outcry, led by chef Jamie Oliver.

Yesterday Mr McCuish was due to meet the Payne family. He told TESS he was hoping to reach a consensus that would allow the blog to continue but protect canteen staff. It remains to be seen whether the blog will have the lasting impact in Argyll and Bute promised by Mr McCuish, but further afield it is having a positive effect.

To date, via her blog, Martha has raised over pound;80,000 for the charity Mary's Meals, pound;20,000 of which will be used to build a kitchen shelter in Malawi, to be named Friends of NeverSeconds.

Chatroom, page 43

emma.seith@tess.co.uk.

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