Availability of drinking water in US public school cafeterias

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 Sep;114(9):1389-95.
Authors: Hood NE, Turner L, Colabianchi N, Chaloupka FJ, Johnston LD

This study examined the availability of free drinking water during lunchtime in US public schools, as required by federal legislation beginning in the 2011-2012 school year. Data were collected by mail-back surveys in nationally representative samples of US public elementary, middle, and high schools from 2009-2010 to 2011-2012. Overall, 86.4%, 87.4%, and 89.4% of students attended elementary, middle, and high schools, respectively, that met the drinking water requirement. Most students attended schools with existing cafeteria drinking fountains and about one fourth attended schools with water dispensers. In middle and high schools, respondents were asked to indicate whether drinking fountains were clean, and whether they were aware of any water-quality problems at the school. The vast majority of middle and high school students (92.6% and 90.4%, respectively) attended schools where the respondent perceived drinking fountains to be clean or very clean. Approximately one in four middle and high school students attended a school where the survey respondent indicated that there were water-quality issues affecting drinking fountains. Although most schools have implemented the requirement to provide free drinking water at lunchtime, additional work is needed to promote implementation at all schools. School nutrition staff at the district and school levels can play an important role in ensuring that schools implement the drinking water requirement, as well as promote education and behavior-change strategies to increase student consumption of water at school.

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