How can your school become ‘water only’?

How can your school become ‘water only’?

The Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education are encouraging all schools in New Zealand to adopt a ‘water-only’ policy. This means plain water and plain milk will be the only drinks available for students at school. This is a step towards tackling the growing issue of childhood obesity in New Zealand and is part of the national Childhood Obesity Plan. 

The Heart Foundation fully supports this great initiative and would like to help schools on their journey towards becoming water only.

How can your school become ‘water only’?

1.    Get the conversation started
At St Leonards School in Dunedin, it all started with a meeting with a Heart Foundation staff member and a supportive board of trustees who thought it would be a good idea to try a school drinks policy.

•    Get in touch with the Heart Foundation and ask for their help
•    Raise it at your next staff meeting / PTA meeting / board of trustees meeting
•    Audit your school’s water fountains. Look at options/costings to include (chilled) water fountains where students can easily refill their water bottles. Discuss with other staff.

•    Education Gazette article: 2016: The year of the water-only school?
•    Ministry of Health water-only policy template (English and Te Reo)
•    Health Promotion Agency Guide to becoming a water and plain milk only school
•    Health Promotion Agency water-only resources

2.    Engage your students
The changes at McAuley Girls High School were initiated by a group of proactive students. The Health Council Leader spoke at assembly to inform students of the changes.

•    Support your student health team to take the lead on this initiative. Make a video/poster on the benefits of drinking water to show at assembly; run an event, competition or other initiative; survey students about locations and types of water fountains they would like to have at school
•    Encourage students and staff to have their water bottle in class with them and to refill them during the day
•    Praise students for drinking water

•    Health Promotion Agency water-only resources

3.    Engage your community
St Leonards School Principal Jo Wilson sent newsletters home informing of the changes and what drink options would now be available at school. Children were encouraged to bring a drink bottle from home and refill it at the school’s filtered-water towers or to purchase a bottle for $1 and fill that.

●    Make a video on the benefits of drinking water and the reasons for becoming water-only to show at parent interviews, a whanau expo etc.
●    Put up posters around the school, especially at the entrance, that show the benefits of drinking water. You could also include posters showing the amount of sugar in sugary drinks.
●    Send a letter home to parents 
●    Heart Foundation sample ‘water-only’ letter to parents 
•    Health Promotion Agency sugary drinks resource
•    Heart Foundation healthy drinks swaps snippet to go in the school newsletter

4.    Develop your school nutrition policy or update your current one to include ‘water-only’ and communicate it widely
McAuley Girls High School in Otahuhu recently included a healthy beverages section in their existing school food policy.

•    Use the Heart Foundation’s sample nutrition policies and tailor it to suit your school
•    Communicate the policy to students, teachers, the tuck shop provider, parents/whanau and the board of trustees

•    Heart Foundation sample nutrition policies
•    Ministry of Education Water-only templates in English and Te Reo

5.    Work closely with your school tuck shop or lunch order provider
McAuley Girls High School students worked with the tuck shop operator to implement changes to drinks sold at the school. There is now only one large fridge with water available to purchase.

●    Make sure that you include ‘water-only’ in your schools nutrition policy and communicate this policy to the tuck shop provider, as well as to students, teachers, board of trustees and family/whanau.

•    Heart Foundation Fuelled4life Catering Guide 
•    Heart Foundation Fuelled4life information on Canteen Promotions

The early days
McAuley Girls High School expects these changes will take a while to be fully implemented. To help facilitate this change, they have decided to confiscate any sugary drinks brought into school and return them at the end of the school day. All staff are aware of the new policy and it will be a team effort to monitor the students during lunch times.

Many schools say they’ve not had any negative feedback from parents or students about the ‘water-only’ changes, which they put down to including them in the process, and implementing the policy changes gradually

Other tips:

  • Encourage students, staff and parents to bring a water bottle to sports days
  • Have a sports person visit your school and talk about the importance of water
  • Incorporate learning about water and the body into the curriculum 
  • Implement brain breaks in classrooms with five minutes of movement, drinking water and eating a piece of fruit 
  • Be proud of your school’s water only status. Include water-only information in your school enrolment pack for new parents, in newsletters and on your school’s website/Facebook page. 

If you have any questions or would like help with becoming a water only school, please contact the Heart Foundation.