Prisoners Get Water, Kids in Schools Don’t

Andrew Dalton

As I've thought about the battles raging in schools over milk -- chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and otherwise -- I've said to myself:

"If only there were some cheap, calorie-free liquid kids could have in its place so we could forget the whole thing." 

Such a shame schools act as though there's no such thing as water.

Well, that's not quite true. We've all stood over warm, rusty drinking fountains that have been touched by a thousand filthy mouths and spat in by loogie-hocking football players. (Los Angeles County found that many of their fountains were lead-tainted and are working to fix them.) 

Those are still there -- and precious on hot September days in California, regardless of how gross. But it's remarkable how hard it is for a kid in a cafeteria to get a plain old glass of water.

California state Sen. Mark Leno has been telling incredulous adults about this.

"Everybody I talked to said 'You're kidding," he tells the Los Angeles Times.

That's about to change. At least in my home state. Leno sponsored a bill that has passed both the House and Senate, and is waiting for the governor's signature, requiring schools to provide drinking water with meals. (Schwarzenegger is a fan and is expected to sign it.)

It's begun already as a pilot program in some schools fighting obesity. And it can be as simple as putting pitchers on tables or a cooler in the corner.

I would be a lot more likely to let my kid have school lunch if I knew she wasn't going to guzzle milk every time she ate it -- chocolate or otherwise.

I have an even better idea -- sparkling water -- to give kids their carbonated fix without the sugar, but I'm not going to dwell on that right now. Baby steps. 

For now, can we at least give the kids what comes for free at every Souplantation and Wienerschnitzel? Or to people in prison? I think they deserve it.

Does your child's school offer water? Or is it just out of the fountains?

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