Children need to drink water.

Yes, we have some strong opinions.

Kids should be offered water when they are thirsty. Young children should not be given soda, punch and colorful “drinks.” Children shouldn’t have more than 4-6 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day — juice should be seen more as a treat, not as a easy replacement for the nutrition of whole fresh fruit.

Sugary and sweetened beverages like punches and sports drinks, have been linked to obesity and dental caries (cavities) in young children.  Sometimes children consume these cups of full sugar all day long, at home, at child care and elsewhere.

(We don’t recommend diluting “real” juice, because while it’s lower in calories than 100% juice… we know it’s bad for children’s teeth and can establish unhealthy habits early.)

Water is the best option for young children when they are thirsty.  It helps to cool their bodies when overheated, lubricates joints and muscles as they develop and grow …and with the addition of fluoride to tap water, can help prevent future dental problems. Drinking tap water is a healthier and inexpensive alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.

Unfortunately, water is not always an easy or accessible choice. In some areas of Contra Costa County there are complaints that the tap water tastes unpleasant. Some families who have recently immigrated to the US and bring with them a longstanding distrust of the safety of tap water. These families most often purchase water from vending machines, outlets and stores… and sometimes artificially-sweetened drinks can be cheaper than bottled water. Argh.

We need to work together to overcome these barriers.

We want water to be accessible. Water fountains/dispensers aren’t available at every park, business, or school. They should be. The state of California has recently passed new legislation requiring all schools to provide fresh drinking water in their lunch areas, despite the cost. Hooray.

We encourage all our community partners to help create environments that promote water and reduce the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages. With our Pledge the Practice. Pass the Policy challenge,  organizations such as Weigh of Life, Bay Point First 5 and Monument Crisis Center have passed policies eliminating the consumption of sugary beverages at their agencies and pledge to only serve fresh water to young children in their care.

In partnership with First 5 Contra Costa, Healthy and Active Before 5 has been working on an innovative social marketing campaign for parents of children aged 0-5 to reduce childhood obesity. The project’s focus is to reduce the consumption of sugary sweetened beverages and promote the consumption of water.

The campaign will use a combination of educational messages about the negative effects of sugary sweetened beverages along with the promotion of fresh tap water.  “Healthy” social marketing messages alone will not be enough change behavior,  so we will continue work with local policymakers and residents to increase the availability of drinking water in child care, corner stores and other “food environments” for families with young children.

Stay tuned for more information as the social marketing campaign develops. If you would like to reduce the consumption of sugary sweetened beverages and promote drinking water at your agency, visit our “Pledge the Practice. Pass the Policy.”  page and download a sample policy today!

For additional information check out the following article from California Food Policy Advocates: http://www.cfpa.net/water/

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