"Our visits and research pointed to a growing dislike from primary 6 onwards of the sometimes regimented, hurried, often anti-social and institutionalised nature of school dining facilities as a reason for low uptake," the Executive's panel comments.
Young people should be consulted about changes. They particularly dislike queuing, unap-pealing dining halls and the lack of quality and choice. Peer group pressure is strong and may persuade many to eat out.
The panel believes that more use of smart or swipe cards would ease the stigma of free meals. Of 16 schools in eight authorities visited, only three secondaries had introduced an electronic system.
Pupils said they saw cards as the future and one Glasgow secondary increased the number of meals eaten by a quarter after it introduced a swipe system.
"Hungry for success - A Whole School Approach to School Meals in Scotland" is available through the Scottish Executive website.