California Schools Now Required To Give Kids Water With Lunch

drinking fountain photo

Photo by respres via Flickr Creative Commons

When I first read the headline of the article on PressDemocrat stating that kids are now to have access to fresh water where they eat their lunches, my jaw dropped a little. Have I been out of school long enough for all the water fountains in cafeterias to have disappeared?! Apparently, yes. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who sponsored the bill that will go into law on January 1, 2011, says unfortunately, it's actually rare to have fresh water provided to students in lunch areas. But that's about to change. "People are just stunned to realize that kids can't drink free, fresh water when they are eating their meals," states Leno.

The new bill requires all schools to be in compliance, but that can be as simple as putting pitchers of water and cups on the cafeteria tables. It doesn't mean massive installations of water fountains (though, again, why all our schools don't have functioning water fountains in hallways -- and instead have vending machines with sugary drinks -- is ridiculous). However, there is no penalty for schools who aren't in compliance by the July 2011 deadline. Why? Because they can claim financial hardship.

How hard up are our schools if it is too much of a financial burden to provide water -- water! -- to kids throughout their day, and especially at meal times? Even if that just means a few dozen pitchers and some paper cups set out on tables?

Kids need water, not sodas. And the costs of providing even the paper cups could be offset by a reward system for students who bring their own reusable mugs or containers.

Yet there are still those who oppose such a bill. According to PressDemocrat, "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected a similar bill in 2008, arguing that it attempted to legislate 'common sense.' In his veto message, he said it 'essentially seeks to regulate a perceived lack of common sense amongst California's school administrators, implying that they are not acting in the best interest of our students, by denying kids access to free tap water.'"

Well, if kids aren't getting access to free water water (and we know they're getting access to vending machines), then perhaps some legislation requiring schools to act on "common sense" is needed.

We thought the resurgence of drinking fountains in public places was wonderful and amazing. Who knew that one day we'd be excited to hear about a resurgence of fresh water provided to school children with meals.

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