Students Don’t Sugarcoat Why It’s Important to Rethink Their Drink

Not only do sugar-sweetened drinks, including soda, fruit punch, lemonade, and sports and energy drinks, contribute to poor diet and obesity, they are also associated with tooth decay and deteriorating bones. Hardly worth the extra 300 calories a day!

So, students from Santee Education Complex and Thomas Jefferson High School in Los Angeles wanted their classmates to rethink their drink.

To make sure they got the message, students at each school hosted events on Wednesday during lunch, lining tables with strawberry, kiwi, cucumber and lemon-infused water; playing cool games and testing their sugar IQ.

The Rethink Your Drink program is a public health initiative to educate low-income Californians about healthy drink options and make the link between consumption of sugary drinks and health risks. Student organizers are members of Health Academy, a youth-driven nutrition education and obesity prevention program funded by Champions for Change and administered by National Health Foundation.

“Students come up with all the activities, host the table and run the show,” said NHF program manager Chad Monk. “This is a chance to shine a light on the projects they’re doing in the school to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

Participating youth learn how to identify challenges in their own communities around food, beverage and exercise issues and create solutions to address those concerns. Rethink Your Drink is one of many campaigns students utilize to inspire their friends and families to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Fill ‘er Up

Despite efforts by families, schools and public health agencies to educate students on better drink choices, teenagers often choose caffeinated beverages, sports and energy drinks. Traditional water fountains at school aren’t always the most appealing option for students. But as Jefferson is learning, its new Brita hydration station is changing minds. Students are skipping the soda and staying hydrated with cold, filtered water.

“We’re using Rethink Your Drink as an education day to let everyone know the benefits of drinking water and reinforce the value of access. The availability of fresh water through a new hydration station has been a game changer at Jefferson,” Monk said.

The new hydration station, which was the first one at a Los Angeles Unified School District school, enables students to fill reusable water bottles and provide clean drinking water while reducing the use of disposable water bottles, resulting in a positive environmental impact as well.

Santee students hope to rally support for a hydration station of their own, taking cues from their Jefferson counterparts, who assessed the need by surveying fellow students and raised the money through neighborhood councils.