New cafeteria water access law takes effect in Jan.

A law going into effect next month requires districts to provide students with fresh, free drinking water in every school cafeteria.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is the author SB 1413, which gives schools until July 2011 to comply with the new law. In an interview with the Press Democrat, Leno said that compliance only requires a minimal additional expense."

"What we are really talking about is putting some pitchers of water on their tables with cups," he said.

Leno promoted his bill, which was signed into law last September, as part of a wider effort to curb childhood obesity by limiting the amount of sugary drinks that kids consume on campus.

The Senator's office provided these examples of model school hydration services.

At Berkeley Unified School District, cafeterias are stocked with paper cups and 5-gallon containers of water during meal time. School officials report that the setup/breakdown time of the water station is only five minutes, and the kids are drinking like fishes.

The El Monte Union High School District provides 8-ounce bottled water as part of its meal service.

Los Angeles Unified spends about $1.20 per student annually on lead tests, water filters, 5-gallon dispensers and cups.

Due to a perceived minimal cost to schools, the new law is not being considered a reimbursable mandate.

If a district can't comply due to budget or health reasons, the local school board must explain why in a public resolution. The resolution must be approved by a majority of the local school board.

Schools are currently only required to have one drinking fountain for every 150 people, but there is no requirement that they be built in food service areas.

A 2009 survey of California school food service directors found that 40 percent of the 234 respondents did not offer free drinking water in the cafeteria. The survey was sanctioned by the California Department of Health and the California Department of Education.

Care to Comment?

Send response of any length to: We will publish all appropriate reactions. more