British Columbia

Forget the juice box: B.C. school experiments with water-only challenge

A Vancouver Island elementary school is attempting to do away with the lunchtime juice box, encouraging staff and students to go water-only during school hours.
Students and staff at Alexander Elementary School are being encouraged to stick to water and skip sugary drinks. (istock Getty Images (DO NOT USE))

A Vancouver Island elementary school is attempting to do away with the lunchtime juice box, encouraging staff and students to go water-only during school hours.

Since classes began this week, Alexander Elementary in Duncan has been conducting an experiment to see if pop, juice and other sugary drinks could be eliminated.

The idea began with a water-drinking challenge that the school held last year, when staff and students drank more than 2,000 litres in about two months, according to principal Dani Morrow.

Staff and students at Alexander Elementary School in Duncan drank 2,000 litres of water in two months last year. (CBC News)

"The kids really liked it — they embraced it. We had one little boy who one of our teachers saw in 7-Eleven, who chose a bottle of water over a pop or a soda, which was awesome," Morrow told CBC News.

"We thought we'd try and take it one step further and see if it would work."

Mixed reviews on social media

The parent advisory council has purchased reusable water bottles for everyone at the school, and a bottle-filling station has been installed.

But a notice sent home to parents is earning some mixed reviews on social media. It says that Alexander will be a "water-only" school, and that "Pop, Iced Tea, Juice, and Energy Drinks can be saved for after school or at home."

Parents of students at Alexander Elementary received this notice at the beginning of the school year. (Facebook)

One Facebook commenter described the trial as "social engineering," comparing it to decrees seen in dystopian fiction and fascist regimes. Another argued that without juice, students wouldn't have "the proper brain energy to focus and learn in school."

Despite the wording on the notice, Morrow said that no one will prevent students from drinking any sugary beverages they bring to school with their snacks.

"If there's a juice box in there, we will encourage them to keep it til after school and celebrate drinking water during school hours," Morrow said.

And parents who spoke with CBC News were largely supportive of the plan.

Claudia McIntyre said she's noticed a difference in her kids as the school encourages more water consumption.

"They're really, really happy about this, and they continue to drink water at home," she said.

Juice linked to obesity

The water-only goal is just a trial, but Dr. Tom Warshawski, a Kelowna pediatrician and chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation, said it's a great idea.

"What we know about excess weight gain in children, youth and adults is the single largest contributor to this is sugary drinks. There's the obvious culprits like the pop and the iced tea and the energy drinks, but juice is also a significant contributor," he said.

Sugary drinks have also been linked to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, he added.

With files from Liz McArthur


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