City bans student from posting photos of school meals online

Nine year old’s battle with censorship puts school meals staff in negative light.

A few weeks back I read an article about a nine-year-old Scottish student who started a blog about the meals served in her school. She rated the meals based on overall taste, portions, health, courses and pieces of hair. The student, Martha Payne, also posted photos of the meals to her blog. 

What drew me to this article was it was yet another perfect example of why we at FSD selected students as one of our 20 Most Influential. Payne, who started the blog as a writing assignment to raise money for her school’s meal program, doesn’t criticize the meals like a normal nine year old would. She’s thoughtful about what she says, and says she wanted to find out things like where her chicken was raised. Payne was engaging with her meal program and wanted to learn more about the food she was eating. How could anyone find fault with that?

Well, someone did. According to Today, town officials in Lochgilphead, where Payne lives, were not amused by the blog and banned her from posting photos of her school lunches. The officials said in a statement that the photos were misleading and had caused distress to the cafeteria staff.

This really got me going. As a journalist, I deplore censorship. If you don’t like the way you’re being portrayed in the media, change that perception. I have no idea if the cafeteria workers in Payne’s school had anything to do with the photo ban, but shame on whomever instigated this ban. This was a perfect opportunity for the cafeteria staff to work with Payne, to find out what she liked and didn’t like and how they could work with her to improve all of the students’ meal enjoyment. Instead, the incident started a worldwide outcry that made the school’s meal program look bad, regardless of the role, if any, they played in the photo ban.

Following the public outcry, the ban was lifted and Payne is back to sharing photos of her school meals. You can check out her blog here.  

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