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Office of P-20 Education Policy
Child Nutrition Program Administration
89 Washington Avenue, Room 375 EBA, Albany, NY 12234
Phone: (518) 473-8781 Fax: (518) 473-0018

School Food Service Directors/Managers
Frances N. O'Donnell, Coordinator
Friday, April 1, 2011
Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2010: Water Availability During National School Lunch Program Meal Service

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (the Act), Public Law 111-296, establishes a requirement for making water available to children in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance on the implementation of this provision.

Section 203 of the Act amends section 9(a) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. (1758 (a)) by requiring schools participating in the NSLP to make potable water available to children at no charge in the place where lunch meals are served during the meal service. There are a variety of ways that schools can implement this requirement . For example, schools can offer covered insulated coolers/jugs of water and disposable cups in an accessible location in the cafeteria, a water fountain, or a faucet that allows students to fill their own bottles or cups with drinking water. Whatever solution is chosen, and there are many options available, the water must be available without restriction in the location where meals are served. Please check with your local health department regarding local requirements. Schools should begin working toward developing a reasonable method to implement this requirement.

While potable water is required to be made available to students, it is not considered part of the reimbursable meal and students are not required to take water. Water is also not a beverage choice in the lunch meal pattern. There is no separate funding available for this provision and reimbursement may not be claimed. However, reasonable costs associated with providing potable water would be an allowable cost to the non-profit food service account, i.e. water coolers, pitchers, paper cups.

USDA understands that some food service areas and/or procedures may require significant changes to properly implement this provision. They also recognize the range of complexities that may be involved in a school's ability to make potable water available during lunch at no charge. For example, you must ensure that all equipment is handled properly and sanitized daily. Water coolers might be easier to maintain. Therefore, they encourage schools to comply with this requirement as soon as possible, but not later than the beginning of School year 2011-12.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) plans to issue a proposed rule regarding water availability in conjunction with the proposed nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools. FNS will issue separate guidance to implement a similar provision in the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Questions on providing access to water during the lunch meal service should be directed to your Child Nutrition Representative.

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

Program information may be made available in languages other than English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication to obtain program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language), should contact the responsible state or local agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

To file a program discrimination complaint, a Complainant should complete a Form AD-3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form which can be obtained online at:, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632-9992, or by writing a letter addressed to USDA. The letter must contain the complainant’s name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) about the nature and date of an alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD-3027 form or letter must be submitted to USDA by:

  1. mail:
    U.S. Department of Agriculture
    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
    1400 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; or
  2. fax:
    (833) 256-1665 or (202) 690-7442; or
  3. email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Click here for Nondiscrimination Statement translations.