Martha Payne is a 9 year old school girl from Argyll, Scotland. Martha was concerned about what children in Africa have for their school lunch so she set up a charity called “Mary’s Meals” and she and her friends sold soaps and candle holders to raise money for the charity. They raised £70 which would be enough money to feed 7 children for 1 year. To further promote her cause, Martha started a blog called “Never Seconds” with a goal of raising £7,000. Each day she would take a picture of her school lunch and add it to her blog with a few comments such as “Food-o-meter” (taste, likeability), “Mouthfuls”, “Courses”, “Health rating”, “Cost” and “Pieces of Hair”. School children around the world responded by sending in pictures of their school lunches with the same critique format.
By the time she raised £2000 some pencil-necked bureaucrat on the city council decided she was simply too successful and banned her from taking any more pictures of her lunches.
Soon, news that she had been banned appeared in newspapers around the world and her story went viral on the internet. Due to worldwide publicity, as well as some pressure from a local politician, the ban on Martha taking pictures of her school lunches was lifted. As of this writing Martha’s “Never Seconds” blog has over 4,080,000 page views and has raised over £50,000 for Mary’s Meals.
Here is an excerpt from Forbes Magazine on Martha’s efforts:
The background is quite simple. Martha Payne is a 9 year old girl from Argyll in Scotland. As a little project she started a blog called Never Seconds. So called because it is about the meals she receives at school and one of the rules is that you can never have an extra portion: what we Brits call “seconds”. It would be comforting to think that the system had been horrifed by Oliver Twist’s “Please Sir, may I have some more” and determined to make sure that no child was left hungry after their first portion. But no, the obesity panic has gone so far that no school child can ever be allowed a second plate of anything for any reason: not even a missed breakfast.
The blog was essentially Martha talking about her school lunches, with photographs of them (when she remembered her camera, the battery didn’t die, she went to school and so on). There was a side line in raising money for a local charity called Mary’s Meals. This raises money to provide school lunches to the poor in places like Africa. The blog gained some popularity running through a million hits quite quickly.
So far, so quirky and the sort of thing that is happening out there thousands of times a week among us hundreds of millions on these here intertubes. Then the school bureaucracy realised what she was doing and decided to ban her from taking the photos of her lunches. They had quite clearly never heard of the Streisand Effect, the idea that attempting to prevent someone from disseminating information on the internet just makes everyone decide to look out for that very information. Popularises exactly what you didn’t want anyone to find out.
Hat tip: Mrs. Huckfunn