For years, health advocates have fought to remove unhealthy drinks from school cafeterias, but little attention, until now, has been paid to healthy alternatives.
Beginning Friday, school districts across the state were required to provide tap water in all school cafeterias as a way to fight obesity and increase concentration in class though proper hydration.
UC San Francisco pediatrician Dr. Anisha Patel, who recently published an article in the Journal of Medicine on the topic, said it’s shocking how many schools do not have drinking water available.
Aging pipes have prevented some schools from offering water.
“Also, if something else is provided on a lunch tray it’s much easier for them to drink the juice or milk provided,” Patel said. “But just because there is a water fountain, it doesn’t mean kids will be drinking from it.”
In The San Francisco Unified School District, as many as eight schools use bottled water because of issues with bad pipes. School officials are placing a $531 million bond on the November ballot with the hopes of addressing such infrastructure issues.
According to the Senate Bill 1413, requiring water to be available to students, 40 percent of California schools are without tap water in their cafeterias. San Francisco Unified plans this summer to tally how many of its schools provide water and then develop a plan to get water in all 120 schools.
Five campuses — Jose Ortega Elementary School, Horace Mann Middle School, Visitacion Valley Middle School, Ida B. Wells High School and Lincoln High School — plan to install fountains this summer.
San Francisco Unified is asking for more time to meet the new requirements. On Tuesday, the Board of Education passed a resolution asking for a waiver until the 2015-16 school year, claiming fiscal constraints. The district cut nearly $20 million from its budget this year, reducing it to $622 million.
Dana Waldow, former chair of the district’s Student Nutrition Committee said that while she understands the fiscal constraints, four years is a long time to wait.
San Francisco first adopted a wellness policy in 2003 that limited the amount of sugary drinks, foods and snacks offered in schools.
“Making water available is an absolute necessity,” Waldow said.
5: Pilot schools for fountains
8: Schools where tap water is not drinkable
120: Total schools
4-year: waiver to meet state law