A New Guide to Getting Water Into School Cafeterias

by Bettina Elias Siegel on March 11, 2014

glassofwaterOne of the less talked about mandates of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the federal legislation overhauling school food, is a provision requiring schools to provide children with free, potable drinking water wherever school meals are served.

It’s a great idea, of course, but as I explained in two posts here (one in 2011, another in 2012), getting free drinking water to kids is not nearly as easy as it might sound.   To recap,  I wrote in 2011:

How is a cash-strapped district going to pay for the thousands and thousands of disposable cups that need to sit near pitchers or coolers, if a school chooses that method to distribute water?  And how are the pitchers or coolers going to be properly cleaned if a stripped down school kitchen lacks adequate washing facilities?  Or if a school instead decides to let kids fill up their own cups bottles, who is going to pay for the installation of a new faucet in the lunch room?

Existing water fountains can help, but in many schools they’re avoided by kids (and adults) because the water just plain tastes bad.

I’m revisiting the issue today because I just received from California Food Policy Advocates a free, downloadable guide, “Water Works,” for schools seeking to comply with the federal mandate and/or generally boost water consumption among students.  It’s one of the most comprehensive resources I’ve ever seen on the topic and would be useful not just for schools but also parents concerned about this issue who want to be informed before approaching a principal or district official.  In addition to the free guide, CFPA also has an entire website devoted to water in schools, which may be found here.

What’s the water situation in your school cafeteria?  Do kids know they can get free water and do they take advantage of the option?  Let me know in a comment below.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Shari March 11, 2014 at 9:55 am

My 7 year old son usually selects water as his drink of choice with school lunches.

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Casey March 11, 2014 at 10:20 am

I was impressed that a high school student arranged for water bottle refill stations in some of our schools: http://www.fcps.net/news/press-releases/2012-2013/refilling-stations

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Stacy @School-Bites.com March 11, 2014 at 11:45 am

Our schools provide water but in the form of water fountains that are not particularly easy to use or appealing, and I haven’t seen any cups provided. Love the sound of water bottle filling stations! I’d also like to see more done to promote water as a beverage choice, especially at class parties, where juice boxes/squeezes are the norm. So much to advocate for, so little time! :-) Thanks for the informative post!

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Katie March 12, 2014 at 10:28 am

The hope is that we become a culture whereby having a sturdy re-usable water bottle is part of our daily uniform, that way schools won’t have to worry about paying for disposable cups and all the trash that results.

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