Because children spend so much time in school or child care settings, safe, accessible drinking water is a public health issue.
Schools participating in federally-funded meal programs must make water available at no cost. But barriers hinder the ability of many facilities to provide drinking water access throughout the day and include:
- Deteriorating drinking water infrastructure, especially in older schools where high levels of lead may be present in the water.
- Limited drinking water availability, with inadequate, inconvenient or poorly maintained drinking fountains.
- Federal meal program reimbursement policies that encourage offering fruit juice rather than water.
- Availability of competitive, sugar-sweetened beverages sold outside federal school meal programs.
This authors identified the following ways that water access in schools and child care facilities could be improved:
- Improve the quality of tap water through water testing programs.
- Implement new wellness policies to encourage water intake.
- Educate students and families about the benefits of tap water.
- Reduce the marketing and sale of sugar-sweetened beverages.
The authors suggest that water access for children can be improved “through a combination of school staff, parent, and student-driven grassroots efforts; public-private partnerships; governmental policies; and funding.”