Drinking water at school - Belgium

In Belgium (Flanders) we have some recommendations and projects for water drinking at school:

  • Together with schools and food industry we formulated prescriptions for actions to reduce the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and to promote free consumption of water at any time at school. Toghether with schoolorganisations, food industry, schools, … we all signed a commitment statement to make efforts to make the offer of drinks and snacks at schools more healthier. More specific in 2017 we all formulated together the goal to not serve sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) in non of the Flemish schools by 2021 and to promote drinking water and healthy snacks (fruit and vegetables in schools). A step by step approach supported by education is promoted to reach the goals. An interim monitoring in 2018 learned es that schools are on a good way to reach this goal. A very important element was to involve food industry in this.
  • To support this in schools on an educational level we developed the educational materials ‘de waterpas’. This includes a sort of drinking diary for pupils to monitor their waterconsumption and provide the pupils as well as their parents with recommendations on how to increase waterintake.
  • In secondary schools we have the Snack and Chill project in which (flavored) water is promoted and sold by pupils to pupils in an attractive schoolshop/bar (they made themself) at a low price. To conduct this project we first condcuted an investigation at schools to collect reasons why pupils do or do not drink water at school. Some barriers were reported as for example mistrust in tap water quality, drinking water in the toilets is not attractive (due to smell, …), drinking water is rather boring, …
    Therefore, one of the keyelement of this project is participation of pupils and the whole schoolteam (from teachers, to school staff, school catering and parents).  Opinions of pupils are concidered in the project and the water is served as attractive as possible by their preferences (e.g. in an attractive watertap in a schoolbar, with citron or herbs for a flavor). The herbs and fruits for the water are offered with a lower price by some Belgian retailers.
    The first step in the project is to convince the whole schooteam of the importance of drinking water. Secondly, the pupils and schoolteam are involved to create a plan to serve the water (e.g. in an attractive schoolbar or shop, …). We are now testing this project in several schools in Flanders. In the schoolshops and bars next to water, fruit and vegetables are also served. A video and more information of the project can be found here.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact me.

Dr. Jolien Plaete,
Vlaams Instituut Gezond Leven vzw,

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