Encouraging Consumption of Water in School and Child Care Settings

Access, Challenges, and Strategies for Improvement

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.”