University of Michigan and the University of Illinois at Chicago recently examined the compliance of the USDA mandate calling for access to free drinking water during lunchtime at schools participating in the National School Lunch Program as well as perceptions about water drinking fountain cleanliness and water quality. The study found that while most schools met the new requirement, less than one-third of children and teens were drinking the recommended daily water intake for their age group. In fact the study found that one-fourth of adolescents drink less than one serving of water a day!
Researchers found that most schools met the requirement through drinking fountains in the cafeteria, water pitchers on lunch tables, and making cups available for use at drinking fountains. However, the study also looked at the reasons why students were not taking advantage of the free drinking water. Researchers found that students worry about the cleanliness of the drinking fountains and were at least “a little” concerned about the quality of the drinking water.
The researchers, including Dr. Lindsey Turner, PhD Research Scientist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, agree that schools are taking the first steps towards increasing children’s water consumption, but there is a long way to go before children are getting their daily recommended amount of water.
“With regard to changing student behaviors, nutrition professionals are credible messengers and are likely to be well-positioned to promote water consumption through educational activities,” concludes Dr. Turner. “Collaboration among school staff such as administrators, nurses, teachers, and other members of school wellness councils may be a particularly effective strategy to promote water consumption as part of creating a healthful school environment.”
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