Concerns have been raised that school pupils are avoiding the canteen meals provided for them.
Questions have been raised by Shetland West councillor Catherine Hughson during Monday’s education and families committee meeting following the introduction of a standardised school menu.
A report before members showed an anticipated fall in income of £55,000 from school meals, due to reduced up-take at the Anderson High School and Sandwick Junior High.
Ms Hughson asked if the new menus were behind the fall in demand.
Director of children’s services Helen Budge said that had “to some extent” been the case.
She conceded the menu change, which was designed to offer healthier options, was “perhaps not what they would have taken”.
But she said there had been a “shift in uptake” at primary level as a free school meal programme – backed by Scottish government funding – had been introduced.
Ms Hughson added: “It’s not only about school meals. It’s about the safety of the bairns we see in Lerwick going to Tesco or the Co-op.
“It’s about how we help them to stay in school and give them something they actually want.”
Chairman George Smith insisted school meals represented extremely good value.
He said the report before members highlighted the offer of two course meals for secondary school children for £2.60.
“We’re not putting the price up, and £2.60 for a two course meal has to be good value.
“I’d hope that would be an incentive and encouragement for as many young folk to take school meals as possible.”
But Ms Hughson added: “It wouldn’t matter how much it was costing – if it was not what they were wanting to eat, they’re not going to eat it.”
It came as members recommended approval of a £54 million budget proposed for the next financial year.
The figure represents an increase of around £1.3 million on last year.
Mr Smith said it was “no mean achievement” given pressures such as an estimated two per cent pay award and an increase in national insurance.