Schools meet water rule, but kids don’t drink


It seems you can lead children to free water, but you cannot make them drink.


It seems you can lead children to free water, but you cannot make them drink.

Most schools meet the recent US Department of Agriculture (USDA) mandate calling for access to free drinking water during lunchtime at schools participating in the National School Lunch Program, but more effort is needed to improve access and encourage students to drink more water, less sugar-sweetened beverages, according to the findings of a new study.

Water is essential to overall health, yet fewer than one-third of children and teenagers meet the recommended daily water intake for their age groups, and one-fourth of adolescents drink less than 1 serving of water per day, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The USDA mandate first went into effect for the 2011-2012 school year. Researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois at Chicago found that the problem isn’t so much that schools aren’t complying, but rather that kids aren’t drinking the water.

Most schools are meeting the requirement by having drinking fountains in the eating areas. Although most of the children in the study said that the drinking fountains in their schools were “clean” or “very clean,” most still worried about fountain cleanliness. Also, about one-quarter of middle-school and high-school students were at least “a little” concerned about the quality of the water coming out of the fountains.

Also, water fountains may not be the most practical solution. Children frequently have to ask permission to get up and use the fountain and then have to stand in line, which may discourage use. Having pitchers of water available on lunch tables or providing free bottled water may make more sense. 



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