Thursday, May 27, 2004
Boston students ponder slimmer pickings in vending machines :
When high school student Shirley Gomez heard the news yesterday, she froze, widening her eyes and gaping in disbelief.

If the Boston School Committee adopts the new nutrition policy proposed yesterday, Gomez' midmorning chocolate-chip cookies could be replaced by granola bars. Her gummy bears dumped for raisins. And her syrupy-sweet red fruit juice axed for vitamin-fortified soy milk.

''No way. They can't do that," said Gomez, as she and her friends made their way to the Burger King next door to Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester. ''If I wanted that kind of food, I could take it from my refrigerator at home. Why do I need to buy it at school?"

Joining a nationwide effort to curb childhood obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases, Boston school officials yesterday proposed substituting healthier foods for the high-fat and high-sugar beverages and snacks now sold on school grounds. School committee members, who praised the suggested changes during the board meeting, will review the new policy in two weeks.

The approximately 130 vending machines in Boston public schools are stocked with a variety of high-fat fare: potato chips, brownies, cupcakes, and ice cream. Beverages include high-sugar sport drinks, iced tea, and juice.

If a new policy is approved, all those items will be banned in September.
''I guess I won't be eating lunch, then,' said freshman Tanisha Gray, who usually plunks about $1.50 in change for Doritos and fruit juice during lunch. ''You'd get more money from the vending machines with real snacks.'

Sherrel Stokes, 15, and Akeem Brown, 14, said they worry what the move could do for their image.

''Nobody eats bananas or apples for lunch -- nobody,' said Stokes, folding her hands across her chest.

''Who's going to walk around school eating an apple?' scoffed Brown."

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