North Valley students learn to be sugar savvy

FRESNO, Calif.

Students at George Washington Elementary and Sierra Vista Elementary Schools in Madera now have more access to drinking water thanks to new portable water stations.

"What type of drinks did you drink before?" asked Action News Reporter Linda Mumma.

"Soda, juice and other stuff that was not good for me," answered fourth grader, Baselides Mendoza.

The portable water stations can easily be transported from the cafeteria to the playgrounds. They're part of an ongoing community-wide effort to encourage families to practice healthier eating and drinking habits and to stay active.

In Madera County, nearly 40% of children ages two to eleven drink one or more sugary beverages a day, while 62 % of all teenagers are either overweight or obese.

"I had a lesson yesterday and the percentages are higher in Madera than Kern, Tulare, Fresno and statewide, so we really need to start educating people about the sugary beverages," said Central Valley Health Network representative, Anita Reyz.

The Igloo style jugs were donated through a three year, one-million dollar grant from Kaiser Permanente and the Healthy Eating Active Living Zone in Madera.

"We have water available to them at lunch time and they'll come up and use that in addition to the milk and juice that we offer," said Principal Bill Holden.

In addition, "Rethink Your Drink" lessons have been incorporated into the classroom. Students are taught how to read beverage labels, identify sugar in drinks and choose healthier options. Each of the 725 students were also given a water bottle as an incentive to use the water stations during lunch and recess.

"You should drink water because it's healthier than drinking a soda," said fourth grader Angelika Campbell. "Your teeth get rotten if you don't drink water."

While students are learning about the consequences of eating and drinking too much sugar, there's one consequence teachers and administrators say they're willing to overlook from consuming more water.

"You've probably seeing more bathroom breaks, right?" asked Mumma.

"Unfortunately, that's a side effect," laughed Holden. "But that's a good side effect. We'll take that."

A small price to pay, he said, in learning an invaluable lesson. "The students are buying into it with a lot of enthusiasm," he said.

At the end of the three year grant, Holden said, permanent water stations will be installed in the cafeteria.

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