Fresh, free water coming to Peninsula school cafeterias 

New Brita water filters will appear in some Redwood City cafeterias as the elementary school district rushes to figure out how to comply with a federal law mandating drinking water be provided to children during meal times.

The federal law, which was approved as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, says any school participating in the National School Lunch Program must provide free water to kids. The regulation comes amid state and local laws cracking down on sugary and sweet drinks, which left schools without alternative beverages to offer students — but more appropriate alternatives were not left in their places.

Don Dias, director of facilities for Redwood City elementary schools, said three of their multiuse buildings did not have water available inside the eating area, though some water fountains are located just outside.

"But that doesn’t count," Dias said.

To correct it, the district will place filtered water at the three locations at a cost of $400 each.

"It’s less expensive and we don’t have to dig down to replace or change the pipes," he said.

Mike Danzik, nutrition education specialist with the California Department of Education, said schools that do not abide by the new law in time for the school year will not be hit with any fines because there is no money provided to make compliance changes, but they will be affected during inspections.

"This is really a schoolwide issue," he said. "Over time, schools always suffered budgetary issues, priorities and that kind of thing that may have let their drinking systems become dilapidated."

Schools that participate in the national lunch program are the only ones required to abide by the mandate. For instance, Hillsborough City School District, which has free or reduced-cost lunches, does not have to make any drastic changes. However, Superintendent Anthony Ranii said the district would be in compliance because it already offers free water to students.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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