Laura Hibbard is reporting in the Huffington Post article, U.S. Schools Struggling To Meet Basic Needs for Water
It’s not iPads, SMART boards or after school activity programs that the majority of U.S. schools are struggling to provide, it’s something much more basic, and somewhat shocking:
Access to water.
Sparked by a new federal requirement that all public schools provide access to free drinking water at lunchtime, administrators are having trouble finding the funds in the midst of widespread budget cuts, MSNBC’s Vitals reported.
Almost a year ago, President Barack Obama signed the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
As well as including the free water provision, the act also aimed to provide healthy meal options to children from households where food is harder to come by. From the White House’s Child Nutrition Fact Sheet:
“Over 31 million children receive meals through the school lunch program and many children receive most, if not all, of their meals at school. With over seventeen million children living in food insecure households and one out of every three children in America now considered overweight or obese, schools often are on the front lines of our national challenge to combat childhood obesity and improve children’s overall health.”
Despite the legislation’s September deadline, some schools have said they simply can’t afford to comply. One west coast school district said in June that it will have 10 schools in noncompliance without $300,000 in additional funding, California Watch reported.
In August, Rita Sudman offered a different solution that wouldn’t cost school districts as much money.
“Why don’t children just bring water to school in refillable bottles?” Sudman told California water news blog Aquafornia. “The reason often is that many schools don’t allow children to bring liquids into their schools, fearing something harmful may have been put in the container. In Germany children are allowed to fill reusable water bottles at school and store them there.”
Either way, noncompliance to the act could result in consequences, Deputy Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service Jesus Mendoza told California watch.
“Corrective action would depend on the situation,” Mendoza said. “If the district says, ‘I don’t want to be in compliance because I don’t believe in enforcing this requirement,’ fiscal action would be possible.”
There are several provisions to the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
Here are the Key Provisions of the Hunger-Free kids Act of 2010
WHAT IS THE CHILD NUTRITION REAUTHORIZATION BILL?
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 authorizes funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs and increases access to healthy food for low-income children. The bill that reauthorizes these programs is often referred to by shorthand as the child nutrition reauthorization bill. This particular bill reauthorizes child nutrition programs for five years and includes $4.5 billion in new funding for these programs over 10 years.
Many of the programs featured in the Act do not have a specific expiration date, but Congress is periodically required to review and reauthorize funding. This reauthorization presents an important opportunity to strengthen programs to address more effectively the needs of our nation’s children and young adults.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Improves Nutrition and Focuses on Reducing Childhood Obesity
Gives USDA the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in schools during the school day, including vending machines, the “a la carte” lunch lines, and school stores.
Provides additional funding to schools that meet updated nutritional standards for federally-subsidized lunches. This is an historic investment, the first real reimbursement rate increase in over 30 years.
Helps communities establish local farm to school networks, create school gardens, and ensures that more local foods are used in the school setting.
Builds on USDA work to improve nutritional quality of commodity foods that schools receive from USDA and use in their breakfast and lunch programs.
Expands access to drinking water in schools, particularly during meal times.
Sets basic standards for school wellness policies including goals for nutrition promotion and education and physical activity, while still permitting local flexibility to tailor the policies to their particular needs.
Promotes nutrition and wellness in child care settings through the federally-subsidized Child and Adult Care Food Program.
Expands support for breastfeeding through the WIC program.
Increases the number of eligible children enrolled in school meal programs by approximately 115,000 students by using Medicaid data to directly certify children who meet income requirements.
Helps certify an average additional 4,500 students per year to receive school meals by setting benchmarks for states to improve the certification process.
Allows more universal meal access for eligible students in high poverty communities by eliminating paper applications and using census data to determine school-wide income eligibility.
Expands USDA authority to support meals served to at-risk children in afterschool programs.
Increases Program Monitoring and Integrity
Requires school districts to be audited every three years to improve compliance with nutritional standards.
Requires schools to make information more readily available to parents about the nutritional quality of meals.
Includes provisions to ensure the safety of school foods like improving recall procedures and extending hazard analysis and food safety requirements for school meals throughout the campus.
Provides training and technical assistance for school food service providers.
WHAT IS THE TIME FRAME?
USDA will work with states, school districts and neighborhoods to implement the provisions of the bill and Americans will start to see changes in their communities over time. [Emphasis Added]
Sylvia Wood’s MSNBC article, Got Water? Schools Scramble to Provide Kids Most Basic Supply quotes spokesperson, Teresa Whipple of Seattle Public Schools:
The solution isn’t as simple as pointing kids toward the nearest water fountain. Just ask Brian Giles, food services senior administrator at the Houston Independent School District, the nation’s seventh-largest district, with more than 202,000 students and almost 300 campuses:
“The majority of our schools do not have drinking fountains or ready access to water in the lunchroom,” he said.
To comply, he’s spent $60,000 to buy 3.5-gallon water coolers for each school cafeteria. In the lunch line, students can choose milk or juice, or a cup for water.
“Every kid needs access to water,” he said. “It would have been nice if the feds allocated some money for it.”
The mandate comes as schools struggle with budget cuts amid growing concern with childhood hunger and obesity. In December, President Barack Obama signed The Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids Act, which includes the provision that schools make water available at no charge during lunch.
Experts say water is the ideal drink for kids already drinking too many high-calorie, sugary drinks.
Like Houston, schools in Atlanta are putting out water coolers and making cups available. Other districts have invested in costlier water stations where students can fill cups or bottles.
“We’re looking at what is the most cost-effective, practical and environmentally –sustainable way to provide water to our students,” said Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Teresa Wipple. For now, the district puts out pitchers and cups in the cafeterias of its 94 schools.
While bringing more water into schools is a good idea, researchers say it’s only part of the solution to combating obesity.
“It’s a step in the right direction but it’s going to take more than that,” said Lindsey Turner, a senior research specialist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
As the lead author of a 2010 study, Turner found almost half the nation’s public elementary school students could purchase soda, sport drinks and higher-fat milk during the 2008-2009 school year from vending machines, school stores and a la carte lines. [Emphasis Added]
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