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October 19, 2010 > Water in schools

Water in schools

Submitted By Office of the Governor

Building on his efforts to reduce childhood obesity and provide healthy alternatives in schools, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently announced he has signed legislation to provide students with access to fresh, free drinking water in food service areas at schools. The legislation, SB 1413 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), was first introduced by the Governor in February at his 2010 Summit on Health, Nutrition and Obesity.

"The health and well-being of our children and all Californians has always been one of my top priorities," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "At my Summit on Health, Nutrition and Obesity earlier this year, we discussed the link between fitness and educational success and the importance of making sure kids have healthy beverages and water available at school. Adequate hydration is necessary for the academic achievement and health of students, so it's important that all schools provide fresh, free water to their students throughout the day, including during mealtimes. With this legislation, we are turning our goals into action that will help create a healthy foundation for California's future."

Many students do not currently have access to fresh, free drinking water in schools, particularly in low-income communities. In schools where there is water available, it is often not provided in food service areas during mealtimes, and while some school districts have found ways to provide access to water in food service areas, it is currently not a requirement for California schools. SB 1413 will change this by making free drinking water a requirement in food service areas, unless the governing board of a school district adopts a resolution stating that it is unable to comply with the requirements, and demonstrates the reasons why it is unable to comply due to fiscal constraints or health and safety concerns.

Several schools in California are already using innovative strategies to provide free, safe water in school food service areas. The El Monte Union High School District provides 8-ounce bottled water as part of its meal service, and in the Berkeley Unified School District, schools supply paper cups and fill 5-gallon containers with water during meal- time. Experience shows that the cost of implementing free water programs is relatively inexpensive. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, the provision of free water costs the district $1.20 per student per year ($2,000 per site per year), which includes the cost of lead tests, water filters, 5-gallon dispensers and cups. The Folsom-Cordova, Oakland, and Hayward Unified school districts have also installed filtered "hydration stations" in cafeterias at a cost of $2,000 to $3,000 per site.

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