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NYC Schools Trashing Junk Food

Soda, hard candy and doughnuts will disappear from vending machines in the nation's largest school system this fall under stricter nutritional guidelines designed to fight childhood obesity, officials said.

New York schools, which serve about 800,000 meals a day, will also serve lower-fat versions of foods such as tacos and chicken nuggets. And beef ravioli and macaroni may soon be history.

By 2008, the city expects to abide by federal recommendations that no more than 30 percent of the calories in school lunches come from fat.

School vending machines will continue to sell cookies, potato chips and pretzels, among other snacks, along with all-juice drinks and water, school officials said Tuesday.

The changes come amid alarm about poor diets and fitness among children. About 13 percent of children are overweight, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California has mandated what schools should serve in cafeterias, and Texas set new guidelines on student exercise.

Last year in Los Angeles County, health concerns prompted school officials to vote to phase out the sale of soda pop and sugar-laden soft drinks to its 748,000 students.

In voting unanimously to end the sale of soda in vending machines and cafeterias by January of 2004, the Los Angeles School Board rejected arguments that its 677 campuses need the money they make from the drinks, saying that students' health should take precedence over fund raising.

Critics of the soda ban argue that sugar-laden drinks are only part of a larger health and junk food problem and some Los Angeles school administrators predicted that they will have trouble paying for such things as dances and band uniforms.

A study conducted two years ago by Massachusetts researchers concluded that drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks increases the chance of childhood obesity. Some other studies have failed to find any link.

Others argue that school officials are focusing on student diets while education suffers, and that officials should leave the issue of the children's diets to their parents.

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