It has been a very good start for the 2013-14 school year! Students are great, staff is great, and the school lunch program well… that is another matter.
Our food service director, who had been overseeing the K-12 lunch program for the past 10 or so years retired over the summer. She worked tirelessly to improve the lunch program and build the breakfast program in our district. We went from “air” bread to whole wheat, high starch and fried foods to baked and low starch options. Yes, some of the changes were mandated from the State but the school health team and food service director worked to stay ahead of the mandates. Students adjusted to the changes and were known to ask for ‘new’ foods they experienced at school (much to the surprise of some parents). Water was made an option at lunch for those students who either did not like milk or had intolerances/allergies to the milk options.
Now that we have a new food director, most of the changes remain in place, predominantly because of the changes made in State and Federal requirements. The one glitch is, the new director refused to serve water at lunch. Parents weren't happy, students weren't happy, teachers were confused. On the first day of school one Kindergardener, when told she could not have water but could have milk even 'new' strawberry milk, was not only very sad but was overheard to say (as only a Kindergardener can) "But I'm lactose intolerant".
I kept out of this ruckus as long as possible. I heard from many people what they had been told the ‘reasons’ were as to why water was not offered. Finally, after week 3, I had heard so many different reasons I decided to ask the director myself, so that when I was questioned about this (being the ‘health teacher’ who teaches that water is GOOD and it is a good beverage to have with meals) I could respond with first hand information.
The other day I decided to ask about ‘why no water was offered at lunch?’ I was told that:
1) There is no nutritional value in water
2) Water should never have been an option at lunch
3) It was not a reimbursable part of the meal
I have not received any information from the food service, so I decided to check out the School Lunch Program on our state.gov web site.
Here is what I found out:
1.During the Meal Service Section 203 of the HHFKA amends section 9(a) of the NSLA (42 U.S.C. (1758(a)) by requiring that schools participating in the NSLP make potable water available to children at no charge in the place where lunches are served during the meal service
2. There are a variety of ways that schools can choose to implement this requirement. For example, schools can offer water pitchers and cups on lunch tables, a water fountain, or a faucet that allows students to fill their own bottles or cups with drinking water. Whatever method is chosen, the water must be available without restriction in the location where meals are served. While potable water is required to be made available to students, it is not considered part of the reimbursable meal, and students are not required to take water.
3. There is no separate funding available for this provision and reimbursement may not be claimed. However, reasonable costs associated with providing potable water would be an allowable cost to the non-profit school food service account. (My underline)
As far as I can tell number 3 was correct
Here is what I found out about the “nutritional value” of water
Water is an essential nutrient. While not a provider of calories, an adequate amount of water must be consumed on a daily basis for proper functioning of the body and overall good health. By regulating thirst and controlling urine output the body is able to keep a delicate water balance. When this balance is not maintained the body's ability to function is dramatically compromised.
If your child's school is not serving water as an alternative or in addition to milk-start asking questions and do some research.
So, in conclusion Water is GOOD! Drink water! When ever & Where ever possible! Especially in place of sugary drinks-this includes soda as well as chocolate and strawberry flavored milk!