The Flint Effect Marc Edwards, PhD—who is professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and a recipient of the MacArthur Grant (commonly referred to as the “Genius Grant”)—presented the Drinking Water Research Foundation’s (DWRF) Alan A. Leff Memorial Lecture during the 2016 IBWA Annual Business Conference, held November 7-11 in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Edwards’ presentation, “Understanding the Flint, MI Water Crisis,” not only chronicled discovering and bringing to the public’s attention the high lead levels and legionella issues that were uncovered in Flint but also earlier findings from 2001 of high lead in drinking water in Washington, DC. In Flint, Dr. Edwards led a research team that collaborated with local residents and government officials to address lead, pathogen, and water infrastructure issues caused by a failure to implement corrosion control treatment in the public water system. He summarized the Flint water study team’s efforts, which combined ethics, engineering, citizen science, laboratory experiments, investigative science, and social media, to confirm the high lead levels in Flint’s public water system. The Edwardsled Flint Water Study Team received Virginia Tech’s Alumni Award for Outreach Excellence 2016, and Dr. Edwards was recognized by Fortune and Time magazine as one of the most influential people in 2016. Dr. Edwards’ presentation will be posted on the DWRF website (www.thefactsaboutwater.org) and YouTube in the near future.
child nutrition reauthorization) unless or until the schools mitigate maximum contaminant levels of lead in their tap water through filtration or longer term strategies. IBWA supports federal legislation that would establish a $475,000 grant program to help states provide bottled water to schools and child-care facilities when they are faced with contaminated water supplies. This grant program would be administered by the USDA, and the funds would be available when the president has declared a state of emergency and it is determined that the public water system poses a significant risk to the health of school children. (Unfortunately, the bill did not pass out of Congress in 2016.)
Access to Drinking Water: Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice Too often children lack what we call “effective” access to water: there may 26
be too few water fountains at school, or they are broken or dirty (or simply unappealing), leading children to be under-hydrated during the school day. NDWA works to provide evidencebased best practices to build effective access to water in schools and child care, supporting the HHFKA which requires access to potable water at no charge in schools operating the NSLP and all CACFP sites. For more, visit www.drinkingwateralliance.org/access. Sometimes there is confusion about beverages in the NSLP school meal programs. Milk must be offered in the cafeteria service line; in many schools and almost all high schools, meals are “offer vs. serve.” Children are required to take at least three out of five reimbursable lunch items to make a complete meal. This is necessary for the school to receive NSLP reimbursement from the USDA. Milk is one of those five items that must be offered and is one of the items students
usually select. Water may not be offered in the service line in place of milk. Water is required to be available, at no charge, in the cafeteria or eating area. NDWA allies currently have several research projects underway on drinking water access in schools, including the following: •
an in-depth look at drinking water access in Seattle-area high schools, funded by Healthy Eating Research (HER), a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation— the nation’s largest philanthropy foundation dedicated solely to health
development of a “photo-evidence” tool to assess quality of water access in schools, funded by HER.
NDWA also currently has an active campaign working to ensure water access in schools. The Healthy, HungerFree Kids Act requires that all schools operating on NSLP also develop a “Local School Wellness Policy.” Those policies must be in place by summer of 2017, and a number of advocacy organizations have been working to inform schools about the requirement and to provide model language. NDWA has helped to promote this campaign and to disseminate model Wellness Policy language for bringing effective access to safe drinking water into schools. For more, visit NDWA’s Take Action campaign: www. drinkingwateralliance.org/actionschools.
What About Bottled Water Sales in Schools? The new USDA guidelines for sales of “competitive foods” (i.e., foods sold à la carte in schools), called the Smart Snacks guidelines, are now effective in all schools on NSLP. These guidelines prohibit sales of most sugar-sweetened beverages in schools, opening up space in vending machines for plain bottled water. For more information, visit www. fns.usda.gov/healthierschoolday/toolsschools-focusing-smart-snacks.