San Francisco students to receive personal water bottles under law

Courtesy photoHydrate: San Francisco school district officials hope the new bottles will encourage kids to drink more water instead of sugary drinks and avoid using plastic bottles.

Students at five San Francisco schools will get their own reusable water bottles next month, as school officials are rolling out a pilot program designed to move the district toward compliance with federal and state laws that took effect last summer.

Senate Bill 1413 and the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act require schools to offer children free water at lunch time. Several San Francisco Unified School District campuses have had trouble providing potable tap water because of aging pipes.

Beginning in January, students and staff at Ortega, Chin, Tenderloin Community and Sutro elementary schools, as well as Wallenberg High School, will get reusable stainless steel bottles, which they can fill at new filling stations that will be installed over regular drinking fountains.

“Drinking from a fountain during class is much more disruptive than sipping from a water bottle,” said Nik Kaestner, the district’s director of sustainability. “It is also more tedious. … Portability is key if we want water to replace sweetened drinks that students carry around with them.”

Kaestner said it would cost between $5,000 and $15,000 to install each filling station, an expense to be covered by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. An agency spokeswoman said the California Endowment paid $10,540 for the first 2,500 bottles.

Students will attend assemblies and teachers will conduct lessons designed to encourage the children to drink as much water as possible, Kaestner said. Teachers will remind their classes to fill up the bottles regularly, and students will keep track of the number of plastic bottles they have avoided using.

“We want students to understand the positive impact of tap water consumption on the environment and on their own health,” Kaestner said.

acrawford@sfexaminer.com

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