Lunchtime School Water Availability and Water Consumption Among California Adolescents

Published in: Journal of Adolescent Health, v. 58, no. 1, Jan. 2016, p. 98-103

Posted on RAND.org on November 19, 2015

by Laura M. Bogart, Susan H. Babey, Anisha I. Patel, Pan Wang, Mark A. Schuster

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Research Question

  1. What effect does a California law requiring school districts to provide free, fresh drinking water during mealtimes in food service areas have on adolescents' water consumption?

PURPOSE: To examine the potential impact of California SB 1413, which required school districts to provide free, fresh drinking water during mealtimes in food service areas by July 1, 2011, on greater water consumption among California adolescents. METHODS: Data were drawn from the 2012 and 2013 state-representative California Health Interview Survey. A total of 2,665 adolescents aged 12–17 years were interviewed regarding their water consumption and availability of free water during lunchtime at their school. RESULTS: Three-fourths reported that their school provided free water at lunchtime, mainly via fountains. In a multivariate model that controlled for age, gender, income, race/ethnicity, body mass index, and school type, adolescents in schools that provided free water consumed significantly more water than adolescents who reported that water was not available, bivariate (standard error) = .67 (.28), p = .02. School water access did not significantly vary across the 2 years. CONCLUSIONS: Lunchtime school water availability was related to water consumption, but a quarter of adolescents reported that their school did not provide free water at lunch. Future research should explore what supports and inducements might facilitate provision of drinking water during school mealtimes.

Key Findings

  • Three-fourths of 2,665 adolescents interviewed reported that their school provided free water at lunchtime, mainly via fountains. Just 20 percent said cups were available.
  • Conversely, adolescents reported that a quarter of schools failed to provide free water at lunch.
  • White adolescents reported both greater access to water at school and higher water consumption than their peers of color.
  • Adolescents in schools that provided free water consumed significantly more water than adolescents who reported that water was not available.
  • Milk consumption was not adversely affected by water availability.
  • There was no significant change in the availability of free water between 2012 and 2013.

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