Encouraging Consumption of Water in School and Child Care Settings

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.”