Water, Food & Fitness

Water, Food & Fitness

California schools serve almost 814 million meals a year. Each meal is an opportunity to offer healthy and tasty food that provides kids with the nutrition they need to stay focused in school.

California is a leader in the movement for healthier school meals. A growing number of schools offer salad bars and food cooked from scratch, and students are noticing the difference. By a 3-to-1 margin, California students say school meals are getting better. However, there is still much work to do, given a 2013 poll that found that 70 percent of school districts say their kitchens need upgrades and two-thirds report their school nutrition staff needs additional training.

But it’s not just about healthier food. It’s also about what our kids drink.

Federal and state law requires schools to provide fresh, free drinking water with meals, but a 2011 survey found just one fourth of schools comply with the law. That’s because drinking fountains on campus are often broken or located far from school cafeterias and other eating areas. In some rural communities, school water drawn from wells is contaminated with pesticides.

Exercise should be an important part of each child’s day. Exercise doesn’t just prevent obesity, it also helps kids work off extra energy so they can stay more focused and succeed in the classroom. But California’s kids are spending too much of their days sitting in their seats. In fact, about two-thirds of California children failed at least one part of the state’s most recent physical fitness test.

What We’re Doing

  • Supporting school nutrition directors with training in new approaches for preparing healthy, tasty meals, and advocating for the updating of school kitchens to allow for more cooking from scratch.
  • Developing new approaches for making water available in schools, such as installing modern water stations. Through The Tap Fund, an innovative partnership with foundations and community-based organizations, The Endowment is installing 120 hydration stations in schools across Coachella and South Kern—two areas with notoriously poor water quality, and scarce access to water.
  • Supporting efforts to educate students about the risks of sugary junk drinks.
  • Supporting efforts to promote the importance of daily exercise at school.
  • Investing in community efforts to advocate for and build safe routes to school, so students will have more opportunities to walk and bike.