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Junk Food Axed From School Vending Machines

New federal guidelines will require schools to replace high-calorie snacks with healthier options.

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Students at McLean High School in McLean, Virginia, purchase snacks at a vending machine on school property. Federal regulations announced last week ban junk food such as Doritos and Pop-Tarts from school vending machines starting with the 2014-2015 school year.
Federal regulations announced last week ban junk food such as Doritos and Pop-Tarts from school vending machines starting with the 2014-2015 school year.

So long, soda. Adios, candy bars. Federal regulations will strip junk food from elementary and high school vending machines in 2014.

The "Smart Snacks in Schools" nutrition standards, announced last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, require any food sold in public schools to meet calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits.

While schools can still sell brownies and cupcakes at bake sales and sporting events, snacks sold during school hours cannot exceed 200 calories and must be either chock full of whole grains or primarily contain fruits, vegetables, dairy or protein.

That means granola bars, popcorn, fruit cups and calorie-free flavored water instead of Doritos, Pop-Tarts, Famous Amos cookies and Coke.

Michelle Obama praised the guidelines, which align with the first lady's "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity.

"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," she said in a statement.

[Discover why healthy eating habits start at home.]

Other parents echoed that sentiment.

"I think this is how it should have been from the beginning," Ilyssa Blatt Morris, a mother of two from California, told U.S. News via Facebook.

Teens can still bring junk food to school or go off campus to snag sugary snacks, but Morris notes, "at least the schools are not supplying this junk and making it far too easy an option."

The snacking standards are part of a wave of healthy food guidelines handed down from the federal government over the past few years.

School lunch regulations implemented last year endured backlash from schools, parents and students over reduced calorie caps. The lunch rules doubled fruit and vegetable servings, but left students hungry and sluggish, critics said. Breakfast requirements mandating more fruit and whole grains and fewer calories are set to take effect at the start of the new school year.

[Learn why time, not calories, leaves teens feeling hungry.]

Some students will see little impact from the "Smart Snacks in Schools" regulations. Nearly 40 states already restrict some unhealthy snack foods in schools and several school districts have taken it upon themselves to limit junk food in schools.

"My high school didn't have them anyway so doesn't really matter to me," Jacob Jensen, a recent graduate from Harmony Science Academy, told U.S. News via Facebook.

Not everyone is on board with the snack regulations, though.

I don't even go to school anymore, but I'm still upset about the switch to healthier snacks like it effects me #FreedomOfChoice

— ®achel (@ramblinrachel) June 28, 2013

Nixing popular snack items from a la carte options sold in school cafeterias could mean a hit to already tight school budgets, Sandra Ford, director of food and nutrition services for Manatee County School District in Florida, said during a congressional hearing last week.

Ford estimates her district would lose roughly $975,000 a year if it eliminated all items that don't meet the new regulations.

Have something of interest to share? Send your news to us at highschoolnotes@usnews.com.