All students need access to clean, no-charge drinking water while they are on elementary, middle and high school campuses.
That’s the message the Brookhaven, Mississippi School District Board of Trustees sent in late October 2020 when it unanimously approved a measure that will allow students and staff to carry refillable water bottles at schools. Furthering the “Commitment to a Healthy School” initiative is the agreement to install water bottle filling stations whenever the district builds a new school or renovates an already existing one.
But one city isn’t enough. Kathryn Rehner-Sullivan, government relations director, hopes to bring easy access to water to all schools in the state.
“This commitment is part of the Mississippi American Heart Association’s larger Water Within Reach effort,” said Rehner-Sullivan. “Our goal is to pass legislation in 2021 requiring all new or renovated Mississippi schools to provide students with water bottle refilling stations. Brookhaven is the first school district in the state of Mississippi, and in the southeastern region of the U.S., to pass this important policy.”
The passage of this policy was aided, in part, by Voices for Healthy Kids’ funding and technical assistance.
Mississippi ranks number two in the nation for the number of children ages 10 to 17 who have obesity. Drinking enough water reduces the likelihood of kids being an unhealthy weight.
“Water is critical to a child’s overall health. Not sugary drinks. Water,” said Jennifer Goodwin, registered nurse for the Lamar County School District “But for many Mississippi children, drinking water is not a part of their day, nor is it available to them. And a passing sip in the hallway is not enough.”
Water bottle filling stations in schools can nearly triple how much water students drink at lunch time. Drinking water can also positively impact children’s cognitive performance, particularly their short-term memory.
“We are pleased to support the important mission of the American Heart Association and to offer our staff and students a healthier learning environment,” said Erin Smith, Brookhaven School Board president. “The addition of water bottle refilling stations to Brookhaven schools is a great step closer to ensuring all Mississippi students have access to safe, clean drinking water.”