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The CDC Guidelines: Drinking Water in Schools

Why is it important to provide access to drinking water in schools?

The presence of drinking water in schools can have a positive impact on the health of students. Schools have a unique opportunity to promote healthy dietary habits, including the consumption of water. 

With over 95% of children and adolescents enrolled in schools and spending a significant amount of time there, ensuring that they have access to safe and free drinking water throughout the school environment is crucial. By offering this healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages, students' overall water intake can be increased, hydration can be maintained, and energy intake can be reduced if they substitute sugary drinks with water. Adequate hydration also has the potential to improve cognitive function among children and adolescents, which is vital for their learning. Additionally, if the drinking water is fluoridated, it can play a role in preventing dental cavities.

Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) are required by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make plain drinking water available to students at no cost during lunch and breakfast meal periods. This requirement also applies to the afterschool snack service provided under the National School Lunch Program. 

Although water is not considered part of the reimbursable meal, funds from the nonprofit food service account can be used to cover the costs of providing water, including cups and pitchers. The USDA has provided guidance on determining allowable costs for this requirement. If schools have any further questions or need assistance in meeting these requirements, they can reach out to their state education or agriculture agencies. Additionally, it's important to note that states, school districts, and individual schools may have their own additional policies and regulations regarding drinking water in schools.

The proper guidelines for schools regarding the accessibility of drinking water for students?

In addition to federal requirements, there are various recommendations regarding water access in schools. Both the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that schools should provide plain drinking water to students throughout the day, free of charge. Furthermore, if other beverages are available or sold during school hours, they should only include plain water, fat-free or low-fat milk, and 100% fruit juice in specified portions, without any flavoring, additives, or carbonation. These recommendations are also highlighted in voluntary school recognition programs such as the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Healthy Schools Program and the USDA's Healthier US School Challenge. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also supports the idea that children and adolescents should be encouraged to drink water as their primary beverage, as long as their daily dietary needs are met. Additionally, water is considered the ideal choice for hydration before, during, and after exercise, and children should have unrestricted access to water, especially during school hours.

The US's CDC have provided a detailed rundown guide and modules for schools to easily follow and help students drink more water during the day. This material is pivotal not just for school staff, but also for parents, officials, and learners to gain knowledge on what and how to guarantee the availability, safety, benefits and promotion of water as the preferred beverage option.


Source: US's Center for Disease Control and Prevention