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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Fewer pupils eating school meals
Dinner queue
The number of secondary pupils eating school meals has fallen
The number of pupils eating school meals in Scotland has fallen, figures show.

The 0.6% fall in 2006 means uptake has declined by 4.5% in the three years since the Scottish Executive launched its Hungry for Success initiative.

More primary pupils sat down to a school lunch this year than in 2005, but secondary school take-up dropped.

Education Minister Peter Peacock said eating habits in schools could not be changed overnight.

The statistics show that 30% of those eligible to take free school meals do not do so.

The executive's initiative aims to cut salt, fat and sugar content in meals.

Education Minister Peter Peacock
We're committed to helping Scotland shake off the sick man of Europe tag and that's why we're in this for the long haul
Peter Peacock
Education Minister

The latest figures show that 47.3% of primary pupils took a school lunch on census day, up from 46.6% the previous year.

In secondary schools, 43.4% of secondary pupils took a school lunch, down from 45.9%.

Of all pupils eligible for a free school meal, 68.5% ate one on census day, up from 67.4%.

The statistics also show 22 councils saw an increase in school meal uptake in primaries.

Mr Peacock said: "We have always known that bringing about such huge change in the eating habits of the nation would not happen overnight, but would require sustained effort.

Fighting obesity

"Our primary schools - the first to make the changes - are seeing the benefit of that sustained effort, with take-up rising overall and in some councils by a significant amount.

"Although one third of councils have increased uptake in secondary as well, it's vital that all secondary schools learn lessons from their primary colleagues."

The minister said the initiative was not intended to be "a quick fix" but was a crucial step in improving the eating habits of future generations and fighting obesity.

"We're committed to helping Scotland shake off the sick man of Europe tag and that's why we're in this for the long haul," the minister added.

Eating habits

The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland said the figures illustrated the need for free school meals for all pupils.

CPAG spokesman John Dickie said: "To really boost healthy eating in school the free provision of school lunches is essential."

The Scottish National Party said it would give free school meals to all children in primaries one to three.

SNP education spokeswoman Fiona Hyslop said: "While eating habits cannot be changed overnight we need to make better progress with the take-up in school meals."

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