(NaturalNews) Some school districts around the country have taken drastic measures to improve childhood health by banning sugary soda beverages from their cafeterias, but according to the Los Angeles Times millions of California schoolchildren -- and probably millions of children in other states as well -- currently have no access to drinking water during lunchtime.
Schools are required to have a certain number of water fountains on campus per number of students, but in many cases, they are not located in or near school lunchrooms. So the only lunchtime drink options for many children is either plain or chocolate pasteurized milk, and maybe some sweetened juice product.
In California, 40 percent of school districts that responded to a California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) survey indicated that their students have no access whatsoever to free drinking water during lunch. And among those who at least have water fountains in or near their cafeterias, the water is often not clean or desirable to drink.
In the case of the Los Angeles Unified School District, unsafe lead levels have been found in drinking fountain water, for which repairs are still underway.
"You just don't imagine in our country in 2010 that there isn't free water to drink while you are having a meal. But there isn't," said Keneth Hecht, executive director of CFPA.
Advocates of free water have introduced legislation in California that, if passed, will require free drinking water to be available in all California school lunchrooms by next summer. This includes even simple, inexpensive measures such as placing pitchers of cold water on lunchroom tables for children to drink, as long as it is made available to them.
Researchers from Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School found that students actually want cold water, and that they will drink it if given the option. And studies have shown that staying hydrated helps children to perform better in school, eliminated headaches and fatigue caused by dehydration.