According to Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog, “just having drinking fountains in schools (and no sugary drinks) seems to be enough to reduce the risk of obesity in kids by 31%.” A study published in the latest issue of Pediatrics confirmed what to me seems like a common sense finding.
“The study tested whether a combined environmental and educational intervention solely promoting water consumption was effective in preventing overweight among children in elementary school. Our environmental and educational, school-based intervention proved to be effective in the prevention of overweight among children in elementary school, even in a population from socially deprived areas.”
Ms. Nestle’s thought-provoking question is whether this might work in the US, and in New York City in particular. Her focus was on whether water fountains delivering clean, fresh, cool water can be made regularly available to students.
“Could we try this here? The barriers are formidable. First, the water fountain problem. Water fountains must (a) be present, (b) be usable, (c) be clean and sanitary, and (d) produce water that is free of harmful chemicals and bacteria. All of these are problematic.”
What a sad state our schools are in if the basic human need of fresh, clean water is not already available, but in response to Ms. Nestle’s question I have the following idea.
Ideally, we will install working water fountains at the same time we take out soda vending machines, if necessary. But given the cash strapped budgets of schools (and suspending any potential for stimulus funds to provide financing), we need a creative way to make this work financially. Someone (me? you?) should develop a water fountain capable of delivering good, cool, clean water in schools, and use corporate sponsorships to pay for them. Just imagine a Coca-Cola Water Fountains serving free water to students, helping to reduce obesity in up to 30 percent of the student population? Given Coca-Cola’s incredible marketing and public relations capabilities, combined with its near limitless resources (e.g., $5.8 billion of profit in FY’08), I am sure they could find a way to make this work for them, e.g., the water could be branded the same as their bottled water brand.
Regardless, it seems to me that this could be a win-win-win for schools, students and the companies that will lose revenues when schools pull out their highly-profitable sugary drinks, not that I really care about lost revenue in exchange for our children’s health.
Have a Water and a Smile!
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I still find it shocking that schools will consider the Coke-for-revenue trade-off – as if the need for money overrides the need for health. Clean water for all is a must, not merely a “consideration,” or something to strive for in the future. Our kids depend on it. Thanks for another excellent post.