Why don't schools serve water to students during lunch?

Thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to end childhood obesity and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's push to revolutionize school lunches, schools these days are much more focused on healthy eating-so much so that some of them are taking a closer look at what parents pack in their kids' lunchboxes.

But while the food choices seem much better than what they were when we were kids, the drink choices are pretty much still the same: white milk or chocolate milk, and maybe some sort of juice. What's still missing from the menu is water.

Part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed last year requires that clean water be easily available in schools. But the problem is that while water is available, there's often no way for kids to easily consume it during lunch.

Studies show that drinking water during the school day can help lower the risk of childhood obesity by as much as 30 percent. So what's preventing schools from offering it at lunch?

Money. Not only are disposable cups expensive (at least, when you're talking about the number of cups needed for an entire school district), schools are reimbursed by the government for the milk or orange juice they serve students in the cafeteria, but not for bottled or tap water.

"It's an unfunded mandate," David Binkle, deputy director of Los Angeles school district food services, told CNN. "If the federal government let us offer water as part of a reimbursable meal, then the children, many of them, instead of taking a milk or juice, would take a water."

But if kids start bringing their own water (or filling up water bottles before going to the cafeteria), schools stand to lose money in another way: most schools get a cut of the money kids spend at vending machines. "If students drink free water served at school instead of purchasing competitive beverages that fund extracurricular activities, schools may have to seek alternative fundraising strategies," a report published last month in the journal of Preventing Chronic Disease pointed out. The report, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, focused on the huge school system in Los Angeles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 85 percent of middle-school age children do not drink enough water. Kids should drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, and teenage boys need as much as 11 servings of water a day.

"Since children spend a large percent of their waking hours at school, they should be consuming at least one-half their total water intake at school," says Dr. Melina Jampolis, CNNHealth's Diet and Fitness Expert.
"Mild dehydration can affect learning as well as mental and physical performance."

Do you think your kids drink enough water, at home or at school?

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