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Utah schools will soon scrap Coke-and-doughnut sales, vending machine treats

Officials try to keep students on campus, but some say more-healthful vending machines will drive off even more kids seeking junk-food high.

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Some elementary students can pick up grab-and-go bags on the way to class, and they have 15 minutes to munch on them after the first bell.

California’s Orange County public schools and others in St. Paul, Minn., have adopted such tactics, so Ogden is trying them, Scott said. Other efforts include separating cafeteria lines, based on what students are choosing, to streamline the wait.

At a glance

What’s changing?

Federal rules have typically stopped short of dictating what’s in school vending machines. That is set to change for the 2014-2015 school year, when schools must substitute more-healthful items. Some Utah schools say they’ve already started to gear up for the new regulations.

Munchies mandate » Schools must sub out junk food in vending machines for fruits, nuts and whole grains. This applies to snack carts and any other kiosks on school grounds. School officials expect to have a tough time finding such items during the next few months, but they believe snack makers will offer options within a year or two.

A fine frenzy » Right now, schools must limit candy and soda sales to non-lunch periods, in non-dining areas. But some students munch and wander, so it’s tricky to regulate. Last year, Davis High in Kaysville and Box Elder High in Brigham City faced $15,000-$20,000 fines for violating the rule.

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Losing sugar — and money » For some school lunch programs, competition comes from the students. Granite School District students line up for doughnuts and Coke to help fund the football team and other organizations.

Cash is otherwise hard to come by for those groups, Prall said, and students are a reliable clientele. "Kids are going to want that stuff."

But the less-junky stuff can hit the spot, too, nutritionists contend. A handful of almonds and an apple make for a quick, crunchy and cheap snack, said Eve Steiner, a Salt Lake City dietitian.

A super-sweet Snickers or another candy bar "doesn’t taste like food. It’s gross," she tells clients. "You have to instill in your children how food is supposed to taste."

Meza, the West High sophomore, makes a twice-weekly trip to the vending machine for a bag of Ruffles. But he’s willing to give the popcorn a shot, he said earlier this summer.

His sister, Jessica Meza, 13, said she likes granola bars and would like to see them in lunch lines and vending machines.

"They should offer both" healthier options and indulgent ones like Funyuns, she said. " ’Cause it’s your choice."

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