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A taste of censorship for a wee food blogger in Scotland

June 15, 2012 | 11:40 am

MarthapayneThe Coronation Chicken "tastes a lot better than it sounds." A bit of shortbread "is really nice because it's covered in sugar."

But at times, the ordering system can go awry.

"I ordered an enchilada but I got a sausage and bean pita pocket," Martha Payne wrote of her school lunch, giving it an iffy 5 out of 10 on the "food-o-meter."

Take note, Jonathan Gold. The Scottish 9-year-old may be the youngest food critic to have become an international sensation, thrust in the middle of a debate over free speech, fairness and why they call it "mince pasta."

Her blog, "NeverSeconds," includes photos of her school meals, ratings for tastiness and health, how many mouthfuls it took to down it, even the number of hairs. It also raises money to combat hunger. Children from around the world have shared their own snapshots of lunch from Israel and Japan.

But her latest post Thursday struck a very different note than her usual musings on sweet corn and where the chicken in her fajitas comes from.

"This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office," Martha wrote. "I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today."

School officials told Martha to stop blogging after Scotland's Daily Record reportedly ran the headline "Time to Fire the Dinner Ladies" over her photo, fretting that cafeteria workers could be at risk.

The decision to ban photographs in the cafeteria was handed down by the area Argyll and Bute Council, her father, Dave Payne, wrote on the blog. The council argued that the photos "represent only a fraction of the choices available to pupils," giving an unfair picture of their school lunches.

"It is a shame that a blog that today went through 2 million hits, which has inspired debates at home and abroad and raised nearly £2,000 for charity is forced to end," Payne wrote Thursday.

As the story spread across Britain and the world, Martha got kudos from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and the World Food Program, which tweeted, "Thanks Martha for understanding the importance of a nutritious meal."

Deluged by the not-so-flattering attention, the council changed course Friday, saying it would ask school officials to let Martha keep snapping photos of her school lunch.

"There is no place for censorship in this council and never will be whilst I am leader," Councillor Roddy McCuish said Friday. "This will allow the continuation of the ‘NeverSeconds’ blog written by an enterprising and imaginative pupil, Martha Payne, which has also raised lots of money for charity."

"Lots" is right. Since the cafeteria kerfuffle made headlines across the world, donations to her chosen charity, Mary’s Meals, have surged upward of £39,000 -- more than $62,000.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Martha Payne, 9, author of the "NeverSeconds" blog on school meals. Credit: Associated Press / Mary's Meals

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