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Doughnuts on the decline in NYC schools

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NEW YORK (Reuters) -- School officials are taking the candy away from New York's kids.

Starting in September, candy, soda and sweet snacks will be banned from vending machines in New York City's education system, the largest in the United States, officials announced at a City Council hearing Tuesday.

In addition, sugar, fat and salt will be trimmed from the 800,000 lunches served daily in schools, the officials said.

The new standards were issued in response to an obesity epidemic in city schools, but districts across the United States have been reviewing meals and reducing junk food, even though the machines are an important source of revenue for cash-strapped schools.

A New York education department spokeswoman said the amount of money raised varied from school to school and there was no recorded average. The extra cash is used to pay for academic scholarships, sports team uniforms and class trips, items that would normally cost tens of thousands of dollars.

"We firmly believe that good nutrition plays an essential role in health and development and helps young people to do well in school," city school food service head Martin Oestreicher told the council.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control study showed that 20 percent of third graders and 21 percent of sixth graders in New York are obese. In poor neighborhoods, 15 percent of the total population has diabetes, which can be caused by poor diet.

Under the new guidelines, school cafeteria food such as beef ravioli, potato salad, macaroni and cheese and ice cream would go, but they are still being taste-tested without salt, fat or sugar. Candy, soda, cakes, doughnuts, cookies, salty chips and fruit drinks with less than 100 percent fruit will no longer be served in vending machines.

Instead, low-salt, low-fat versions of cheese pizza, chicken fingers, Jamaican beef patties and chicken teriyaki will be available on menus. Vending machines will contain pretzels, energy bars, water, 100 percent fruit juices and low-fat, low-salt chips.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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