“Ice cream, tea, soda pop, fleas!”
When I was in elementary school, we would run up to the water fountain at recess, all in a race to get to one of the first three spigots. Our imaginations would run wild - we would pretend that rather than drinking water out of each spigot, it was either ice cream, tea, soda pop or – fleas! No one wanted to drink out of the fourth spigot. It was grizzled, covered in a greenish moss substance. Anytime a kid drank out of it, the crowd would yell: “FLEAS!”
Now, we all KNEW that just water was coming out of every spigot on the fountain, but still, the song stuck. And the only time anyone ever drank out of the fourth spigot was if it was a really, really hot day and the queue for the first three spigots was just too long.
As most parents (and people with good memories) know, kids are funny. Playground antics can make even the most basic of experiences – like a water fountain visit – time for playful imagination.
These days we could all use a little more lighthearted fun. But the reality of saddling up alongside our friends to a four-spigot water fountain is toast.
In my work as a Policy Engagement Manager for Voices for Healthy Kids, I’ve been thinking a lot about what water access in schools looks like in the time of COVID-19. While some students will go to school via home internet, there’s still a lot of kids across the country who will be filling seats in-person, albeit six-feet apart. We need to make sure that in either scenario kids are safely hydrated.
Water access is one of the most fundamental basics of good health. Drinking water helps children’s muscles, joints and tissues, improves their digestion and keeps their growing bodies hydrated.
Yet over half of kids in the U.S. don’t drink enough water. When children don’t have enough water to drink, their health and their cognitive performance, particularly short-term memory, may suffer. And, when water is not available, children tend to consume more sugary drinks, which are linked to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Our new Water Access Toolkit provides handouts, factsheets and guidance to customize a water access campaign in your community. Whether it’s getting your local school district to install touchless water bottle filling stations or working with state lawmakers to get their commitment to improved water access, toolkit resources are here to help.
So, as summer sizzles into back to school time, we can each do our part to make cold, clean, refreshing water better available for kids. And just maybe today’s generation of youth will create their own goofy song for the water bottle filling station at their elementary school. Let’s make sure they have that chance.