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Hunger-Free Kids – Yes! But Thirst-Free? Not Always In American Schools

16 May, 2011 (11:57) | Drinking Water, Water Safety | By: admin

Most people send their children off to school believing that they will receive an education and a healthy diet while there. Schools offer a selection of foods and beverages throughout the day, the majority of which go along with Congress’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 to improve school nutrition in the National School Lunch Program. According to the new federal law, school districts will have to provide water in student eating areas, but the law doesn’t discuss accessibility. But after the completion of the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as mentioned in a CNN article, only 15 percent of kids around the age of 12 are getting adequate hydration. “Since children spend a large percent of their waking hours at school, they should be consuming at least one-half their total water intake at school,” says Dr. Melina Jampolis, CNN Health’s Diet and Fitness Expert. But many schools have limitations (many financial) that don’t allow students the opportunity to get enough water to not be thirsty, much less adequately hydrated.

Nutrition advocates think that school access to water is a national problem that the federal government has barely addressed. The mandates are there to provide the water to students, but the financial backings aren’t as they are with milk and juice. And what’s worse is that mild dehydration can affect learning as well as mental and physical performance. It’s scientifically proven that schoolchildren need plenty of water in their diet to stay healthy, but the debate over how and where has just begun.

With water sources slowly diminishing in some areas of the western part of the United States, schools aren’t able to provide unlimited access to tap water and water fountains. Bottled water is expensive for districts and don’t follow an environmentally-friendly guidelines either. So without specific requirements, schools are running out of options. With larger populations of students, schools in Orange County and Los Angeles county have a hard time providing students easy access to water fountains in these areas. Vista Middle School outside Los Angeles has approximately 1,700 students and four water fountains in the entire student eating area. And with this many students, that could produce some long lines for drinking water – something many students choose to not wait on. But that decision could in turn be affecting their school performance. Many of the nation’s bigger school districts also have chosen not to provide cups to students for other reasons. So as the debate grows, the options seem to be shrinking.

Schools could continue the status of hydrating students as it is, or could also look into water filters, or water coolers that can handle the demands of most commercial needs. According to the CNN article, “It’s called a water intervention — a five-week research program that includes a water filter and cups for five schools in the Los Angeles school district, provided free from the UCLA/RAND project. The test includes these steps: Install a water filter in the school. Fill five-gallon jugs. Chill jugs overnight. Place in the eating area during mealtime. Serve with cups. The results will not be published until next year, but anecdotally, the program is a success, researchers say.” To add these to more schools all over the county, it is critical to finding a water treatment company that can handle the demands and provide services to so many places at once. Above all, schools and those federal programs are responsible for helping students make healthy, positive decisions, and providing opportunities for them. If water filters and water coolers become that option, schools should then find ways to help them make related decisions and programs. If schools want students to perform outstanding, they need to provide opportunities for them, starting with drinking water.