2:01pm Wednesday 20th June 2012
© Press Association 2014
A Michelin-starred chef has described a nine-year-old schoolgirl as "wonderful, smart and brave" for raising awareness of food standards through her blog.
Martha Payne started the NeverSeconds blog six weeks ago, posting pictures and opinions about her school lunches in daily updates.
Raymond Blanc has now joined other celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Nick Nairn in praising the young girl.
On Thursday, Martha was told by Argyll and Bute Council that she could no longer take photos to illustrate her blog as media coverage had apparently left catering staff fearing for their jobs.
However, the council back-tracked on its decision after a barrage of negative publicity in the media and on social networking sites.
The controversial ban led to thousands of donations flooding in to Martha's JustGiving site, which she set up to raise money for Mary's Meals.
Mr Blanc, who runs the Michelin-starred Le Manoir restaurant in Oxfordshire, said: "The newspapers and the internet have been alive with reports of Martha Payne. What a wonderful, smart and brave girl.
"She has done a very simple thing: taking a photograph of her lunch and telling us what she thought of it each day. But she's also done something many grown men and women might fail to do. She has raised awareness of the standards of food provided in most schools - tastes, textures, flavours and nutrition.
"She has also created a dialogue with schoolchildren and students across the world where we can all discover what they are eating. But the real triumph must be to have raised so much money for Mary's Meals, this charity which provides nutritious meals for seriously-deprived areas of the world."
Martha's father Dave Payne said he was "touched by the kind words" of Mr Blanc. He said: "His support, along with the overwhelming response we have seen from around the world, has been amazing and we are so, so grateful. This will mean a lot to Martha because Raymond is someone who she loves watching on telly."
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