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USDA launches program to eliminate junk food from school vending machines

Vending MachineSchool vending machines will be getting a healthier back-to-school makeover for the 2014-15 school year no thanks to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The government agency just launched the “Smart Snacks in Schools” program to “support better health for our kids and echo the good work already taking place in schools across the country,” according to the program’s website.

Under the guidelines of the program, vending machines in public middle and high schools nationwide will no longer be able to distribute snacks like powdered doughnuts, candy bars, chips and soda. Instead, the machines will be filled with healthier alternatives like granola bars, fruit cups, peanuts and flavored water – all of which must be under 200 calories per serving.

Schools will be allowed to serve less-healthy options at after-school functions and concession stands during athletic events, however.

“Collectively these policies and actions will help combat child hunger and obesity and improve the health and nutrition of the nation’s children; a top priority of the Obama Administration,” the USDA said in a press release.

Not coincidentally, First Lady Michelle Obama is behind the new program and has incorporated it into her “Let’s Move!” childhood obesity-fighting initiative.

“Many parents are working hard every day to make sure they provide healthy, balanced meals and snacks to their kids,” Obama said in a statement on the USDA’s website. “Unfortunately, we don’t always have control over the snacks our kids have access to when they’re away from home. That’s why, as a mom myself, I am so excited that schools will now be offering healthier choices to students and reinforcing the work we do at home to help our kids stay healthy.”

The infiltration of healthier food options into vending machines will take place in time for the 2014-2015 academic year so that schools and snack distributors have ample time to prepare for the transition. The USDA will offer “training and technical assistance” for the transition.

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