9-Year-Old Who Changed School Lunches Silenced By Politicians
A little later, her father Dave (who helped her set up the blog but has been hands-off on the content), added to her post:
Can we all agree how monumentally stupid this is?
Here we have a kid who got excited enough about feeding children well that she not only changed the food in her own district — within two weeks, officials were allowing children in her school to have "unlimited salads, fruit and bread," which apparently was the policy all along only someone forgot to say so -- but also got children around the world excited about their lunches too. Over the blog's seven weeks, she received images of school lunches from Germany, Japan, Finland, Illinois, Spain, Washington State, a school in Atlanta that keeps kosher, and on.
And no, to stave off the inevitable snark, she's not a bratty entitled kid. Here's how we know: By her 19th post, she decided she'd gotten enough attention that she wanted to redirect it somewhere useful, and she asked her followers to donate to a charity called Mary's Meals that funds school food in Africa. She started off the donations by sending £50 that she got from a magazine that reprinted some of her photos. By today, according to her father's note, she had raised £2,000.
We anguish about getting kids to be enthusiastic about healthy, sustainable food — to not prefer the bad stuff, not waste the good stuff, and not be entitled little monsters who whine about when their next chicken nugget is arriving. And then a child emerges who, out of her own creativity and curiosity, does all of that, and gets other children around the world excited about doing it too. And then she gets told she is offending the powers that be, and is slapped down.
Those would be the powers who told a 9-year-old that she was making "bad choices" out of the food being served at her school, without ever taking responsibility for what they had allowed to be offered. (Which is not necessarily the norm for school lunches in Scotland, as this piece from the Daily Record makes clear.)
If you'd like to tell the Argyll and Bute Council, who made the decision, exactly how idiotic they’ve been, their webpage is here. (And they are @argyllandbute on Twitter.)
If you'd like to send support to Martha, you can leave a comment on her final post. (Her email is on the same page.)
And if you'd like to honor her ingenuity by supporting the school-food charity she picked, the donation page is here.
(While I was writing this post, the news of the no-photography rule was posted by the Argyll News and the media site STV-Glasgow. The Argyll and Bute Council has not responded.)
Thanks @MJRobbins for flagging NeverSeconds’ goodbye post on Twitter.
Update, 12 hours later:
So much happened overnight:
Huge amounts of public support, including from Jamie Oliver (who tweeted “Stay strong, Martha!”) and Neil Gaiman.
214 news articles worldwide in the past 12 hours.
Another half-million pageviews at the NeverSeconds blog (and almost 1,000 comments on her Goodbye post, up from about 150 when I posted last night).
The Guardian proposed that people take pictures of their lunches and tweet them #MyLunchforMartha
Disappointingly, the Argyll and Bute Council remained thick-headed, releasing (at 10 a.m. UK time) a jawdroppingly unkind and accusatory statement that also appears to misrepresent what actually happened. (As several of the stories linked above make clear, Martha's father cleared her photo project with the teachers at her school, Lochgilphead Primary, and she did not criticize "the catering staff," only the lunches.) Thinking they might regret what they said, I took a screengrab of the statement; meanwhile Twitter user @PeterWalker99 posted the text here.
The charity for which Martha asked support, Mary's Meals, says that NeverSeconds' supporters blew through the £2,000 she hoped to raise, and have donated enough so far to build an entire new kitchen in Lirangwe Primary School, in Blantyre, Malawi. (Update 2.1: At Grist, Twilight Greenaway says giving is up to $35,000, and coins the excellent phrase "rage-donations.")
Update 3: Martha wins!
Three hours after its defensive statement was issued, the leader of the Argyll and Bute Council, Roddy McCuish, went on the BBC's World At One program on Radio 4 and announced they were backing off the ban in response to a request from Scotland’s education minister along with vast pressure from social media. Here's the BBC story.
Sincere thanks to everyone who expressed support for NeverSeconds here and also via Twitter. The response truly was enormous — last night,the pageview counter on the NeverSeconds blog was updating about once per second, and this morning the hashtag #NeverSeconds was updating too fast to follow. It's a big win for transparency and for the importance of good food for children. Bravo all of you.
The Argyll and Bute Council has posted a new statement lifting the ban. (Disappointingly, they have done it at the same URL — but you can compare the old and new statements at my Scribd.) It is attributed to Roddy McCuish:
Update 5, 24 hours later:
Thrilled to say that Martha is posting again, and says she will be back to normal on Monday. She reports that her followers have raised £45,889.46 -- that's approximately $72,000 -- for her charity.
Any of you who donated, or otherwise sent support, have my humble thanks. This was a great day.
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