Huffpost UK uk

David Payne, Father Of Martha, School Dinners Internet Sensation, Talks Of Pressures On Family

Posted: Updated:

The father of a nine-year-old girl from Scotland who created an internet sensation with her blog on school dinners has spoken about how the pressures of the past few months have been "difficult to handle".

David Payne was speaking on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour on Friday with his daughter, Martha, now 10, about how their NeverSeconds blog had helped change food at her school and ultimately led to a visit to Malawi to see how funds they had helped raise were helping schoolchildren there.

Martha from Lochgilphead, Argyll, set up NeverSeconds earlier this year to rate the food her local school provided her. NeverSeconds, so named because children were told at her school they couldn't have more dinner as "it wasn't fair on everyone else", went viral and before Martha and her father knew it they were an internet sensation.

Argyll and Bute Council were not so enamoured though and banned Martha from taking photos of her dinners. The ban lasted 26 hours following a media outcry.

Speaking to presenter Jenni Murray, Martha talked about how it was "pretty disgusting" when she found a hair in her school dinner that wasn't her own but admitted that food at her school had improved.

"Now we can get unlimited salad and can come back for more fruit," she said.

David Payne said the family had been under a lot of pressure since the blog was launched, but added that the trip to Malawi to see how the £123,000 that NeverSeconds has helped raise for Mary's Meals, a Scottish charity which runs school feeding projects in communities around the world, was helping other children had made it all worthwhile.

"It was a nice way to end what has been an emotional journey over the past few months. we have had a very high profile which has sometimes been difficult to handle, " he added.

Some of that pressure arose from their dealings with Argyll and Bute Council and in the book, 'NeverSeconds The Incredible Story Of Martha Payne', David talks about his dealings with his local authority and how he was laughed at down the phone by a council official when he complained about how his daughter had been treated.

"It was the most shocking and offensive phone call I had ever received," David is reported as saying in the Argyllshire Advertiser.

The newspaper contacted the council who would not comment on whether a member of its staff had laughed at David, but gave a statement through council leader, Roddy McCuish, who said: "How we deal with people is very important to us.. It is always a matter of regret to both councillors and senior officers if anyone feels they not been treated correctly."

David and Martha visited Malawi, one of Africa's poorest countries, in October where Mary was guest of honour at Lirangwe Primary School, near Blantyre, for the opening of a new kitchen run by Mary's Meals.

Mary joined 2,000 children for breakfast and sampled a bowl of porridge. Asked by Murray if she liked it, Martha replied: "A wee bit."

  • Donations to Mary's Meals can be made through NeverSeconds' Justgiving page.
  • Martha and David Payne's book, 'NeverSeconds The Incredible Story Of Martha Payne' is published on 15 November.

See more on NeverSeconds in the video below