Water Access in Schools
Ensuring that students have access to safe, free drinking water throughout the school day is one strategy that schools can use to create a school environment that supports health and learning. This strategy is part of the Institute of Medicine’s report, Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools.
Benefits of Drinking Water
Providing access to drinking water gives students a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages. It helps to increase students’ overall water consumption, maintain hydration, and reduce energy intake if substituted for sugar-sweetened beverages.1-3 Adequate hydration also may improve cognitive function in children and adolescents.4-8 Drinking water, if fluoridated, also plays a role in preventing dental caries (cavities).
Access to Drinking Water
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and the new "Smart Snacks in Schools" requires that schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program make free water available to students during meal times in locations where meals are served. In addition to these new requirements, schools should use a variety of strategies to ensure that students have access to free drinking water throughout the entire school day, including —
- Ensuring that water fountains are clean and properly maintained
- Providing access to water fountains, dispensers, and hydration stations throughout the school
- Allowing students to have water bottles in class or to go to the water fountain if they need to drink water
Tap water is assured through EPA standards and regulations to be clean and safe for drinking. In rare cases when tap water may not be safe to drink because of unsafe plumbing systems or contaminated water sources, schools should use alternate methods of providing drinking water to students, including installing filtration systems or purchasing drinking water.
- Kaushik A, Mullee MA, Bryant TN, Hill CM. A study of the association between children's access to drinking water in primary schools and their fluid intake: can water be 'cool' in school? Child: Care, Health & Development 2007;33:409–15.
- Muckelbauer R, Libuda L, Clausen K, Toschke AM, Reinehr T, Kersting M. Promotion and provision of drinking water in schools for overweight prevention: randomized, controlled cluster trial. Pediatrics 2009;123:e661–e667.
- Wang Y C, Ludwig DS, Sonneville K, Gortmaker SL. Impact of change in sweetened caloric beverage consumption on energy intake among children and adolescents. Archieves of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine 2009; 163(4):336–343.
- Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition Reviews 2010;68(8):439–458.
- Kempton MJ, Ettinger U, Foster R, Williams SCR, Calvert GA, Hampshire A, et al. Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Human Brain Mapping 2011;32:71–79.
- Edmonds CJ, Jeffes B. Does having a drink help you think? 6-7-year-old children show improvements in cognitive performance from baseline to test after having a drink of water. Appetite 2009;53:469–472.
- Edmonds CJ, Burford D. Should children drink more water? The effects of drinking water on cognition in children. Appetite 2009;52:776–779.
- Benton D, Burgess N. The effect of the consumption of water on the memory and attention of children. Appetite 2009;53:143–146.
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