For East Valley Youth, Sugary Drinks Easier to Come By Than Water

By Maricruz Cabrera
Coachella Unincorporated

Monday morning, I grab an 8-ounce carton of chocolate milk, not knowing I am ingesting about 23 grams of sugar. During lunch, that same day, my urge for a cold drink prompts me to buy a Powerade, inadvertently consuming an extra 34 grams of sugar. In one school day at Coachella Valley High School, I realize I have consumed approximately 57 grams of sugar, not including sugar from any other foods I have eaten in and out of school.
At Coachella Valley High School, we do not have many choices when it comes to beverages. It’s either drink what is free or buy your own.

Free or reduced school lunches, although not available to all students, offer drinks that contain sugar quantities ranging from 13 to 23 grams of sugar. Another free service is the school’s water fountains, which often are visibly unappealing. The other choice is to buy your own beverage. Many students buy sweetened drinks such as Powerade or choose from a variety of sugary Minute Maid drinks at the school’s vending machine.
Water is also sold for $1.00, but is less popular among the students. Why should we buy what we can have for free? We can easily walk to the nearest school water fountain and have a nice, refreshing drink. But the truth is that our minds are easily driven away from that idea at the site of a clogged, scum-infested water fountain. Instead of buying a bottle of water, we opt to pay the extra 25 cents for a colorful Powerade with 34 grams of sugar.

Although some do not buy sweetened beverages daily, I can bet most do not drink the suggested “8 cups of water a day.” Thus, the students of Coachella Valley High School, along with students nationwide, do not receive the benefits that come with water consumption.

According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), about 215,000 people 20 years or younger had diabetes in 2010. Providing students with free water promotes a healthier lifestyle. Students can decrease the amount of sugar ingested annually and reduce the risk of several health issues such as obesity and decrease the chances of being diagnosed with diabetes.

In the Coachella Valley, diabetes is something to be especially informed about and prevented, due to the vast majority of Hispanics who have a higher rate of diagnosed diabetes than other ethnic groups.

Dehydration can also be prevented by free water consumption in school. This is especially vital to places such as the Coachella Valley, where the weather hits the triple digits and students are more prone to suffer from dehydration.

In many under-developed communities, such as unincorporated communities in the Coachella Valley, many students have no access to clean drinking water at home. Arsenic levels in mobile home parks in Thermal repeatedly test high. The food and water provided at school can be these children’s only source of nutritious food. So the initiative to educate children about a healthy lifestyle can be at school. It is the school’s responsibility to provide students plenty of clean, safe and most importantly, free drinking water. The addition of free water in schools cannot only directly educate students, but can also educate the community in making simple changes, such as drinking more water daily. This can have a significant impact on the overall health of the community.

Coachella Unincorporated Voices

“Substituting water for sugary drink yields many health benefits in the long run. Water is essential to living a long, healthy life.”

Tony Aguilar, College of the Desert

“I feel strongly about having a clean drinking water supply. Water makes up a good percentage of our bodies. Having served in the U.S. Army, I have learned a great lesson on how important it is to drink water, especially in extreme environments such as a desert. Whether hot or cold, water is essential to desert living and for public schools out here in the desert. I, for one, can attest that when I tasted water from a fountain at Saul Martinez Elementary School (in Mecca), I was looking for the nearest soda dispenser to wash away the nasty taste.”

Raymond P. Bondad, College of the Desert

“Access to free, clean drinking water in schools is such a vital necessity for students in the valley who are exposed to high temperatures and humidity. Accessibility to water is not only important because of temperatures in the valley, but for a healthy lifestyle in general. If students drink more water instead of unhealthy, sugary drinks, diseases and other medical complications could decrease.”

Noely Resendiz, Coachella Valley High School

“My question is—why hasn’t this been brought to light before? People should be comfortable with what they’re drinking, even if it’s just water.”

Santos Reyes, Coachella Valley High School

“Ensuring that there is clean drinking water in schools is an essential step in promoting healthy decisions and the overall well-being of students. The availability of fresh drinking water would be an investment in the future, by improving academic performance currently compromised by poor hydration.“

Aurora Saldivar, College of the Desert

“It is essential for schools to provide clean water for all students. Especially in the kind of environment that we live, not having water could be dangerous. If children do not have free, clean water readily available, they will likely resort to sweetened drinks which are unhealthy. I believe this is an issue that needs to be addressed statewide for the welfare of our youth.”

Jesus A. Vargas, University of California, Irvine

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