Hi lovely people, Jamie here.
As you guys might know, part of my foundation is based out in California and we’ve recently teamed up with a wonderful institution, The California Endowment, who are doing great work promoting better health in the communities that really need it. One of the things we’ve been working on is better access to safe drinking water. What’s really shocked me is despite being the eighth biggest economy in the world, around 25% of California’s schools fail to provide safe, clean drinking water during mealtimes. In fact, the American Journal of Public Health found that not one school meets all the criteria needed to provide access to excellent drinking water.
In a state that can afford it, why aren’t children getting access to what should be a basic human right? What’s worse, when clean water isn’t available, the chances of a young person buying soda or sugary drinks is far higher. These drinks are the biggest single source of calories in teenagers’ diets and the primary culprits in skyrocketing levels of obesity and type-2 diabetes. When one-third of all children born after the year 2000 is predicted to have type-2 diabetes, you can see that something has to change, and fast.
Let me take you back to 2014, when I travelled to California to speak to Governor Jerry Brown, Assembly speaker Toni Atkins, and a handful of state representatives. We showed them a sample of the dirty water from a local school, we discussed the huge number of children with no access to clean drinking water, and we debated the legality of it all. We got on jolly well, but they knew we meant business and 36 hours later, we learnt that funds from the Water Bond would guarantee access to clean drinking water for all Californians, as well as access to free, clean drinking water in all schools during meal times. This was a massive step forward for us.
Earlier this year we came back and while they told us progress had been made, they were unable to tell us really how much. The great thing is the brilliant people at The California Endowment along with their partners, Rural Community Assistance Corporation, Pueblo Unido and Community Water Center are already taking an important first step to making sure this happens. They’re funding the installation of 120 water bottle-filling stations to give access to safe drinking water to more than 150,000 residents in South Kern and Eastern Coachella – two rural communities with notoriously poor water quality, and incidentally where more kids drink soda than anywhere else in the state.
But this is just the start. Access to clean, safe water is essential for a healthy life and there’s still a lot to be done to secure our children’s future. Nothing happens quickly in government but we must keep holding those responsible to account to make sure they deliver on their promises. If you want to push for change, support the Agua4all campaign. Learn more here and join the conversation online with the #agua4all.
Lead image by John Decker