Drinking Fountain Grants Help Communities Fill Up on Healthy Habits
Increasing access to healthier drinks
The residents of Blue Mound Tower in Luverne, Minn. used to frequent a nearby convenience store for soft drinks. A big glass of soda was a treat.
But thanks to a new drinking fountain, Tammy Johnson, Executive Director of Luverne Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), says she doesn't see that anymore.
“Now that [residents] can bring their water bottles down to the drinking water station, they do that instead of purchasing pop,” Johnson said.
Luverne HRA received a hydration station grant from the Minnesota Department of Health in 2018. Through the grant, they installed a new drinking fountain with a water bottle-filling station in Blue Mound Tower, which provides income-based, affordable apartment units for older adults and people with disabilities.
"Many of our tenants do not have vehicles or they are too frail to purchase and haul water," Johnson said.
One tenant used to walk to the store to buy jugs of water to refill her C-PAP machine, which was tiring and costly. With the new drinking fountain and its filling capabilities, clean water is just a walk down the hall. The fountains are also American-Disability Act-compliant and accessible for people of all abilities.
"Our water bottle fill station has been one of the best additions to our Housing Authority," Johnson said.
Luverne HRA was one of 16 grantees across Minnesota who received funds to install a new drinking fountain in 2018.
The fountains filter out contaminants like lead, while retaining beneficial substances like fluoride, which protects teeth from cavities. In addition, they promote healthy behaviors – like staying hydrated and choosing water over sugary beverages. The bottle-filling feature allows people to fill up to drink throughout the day, and reduce waste from plastic bottles.
“Water is a vital nutrient for our health and wellbeing,” said Prasida Khanal, State Oral Health Director. “Providing access to water also offers preventive health benefits, like protecting teeth from cavities and reducing risk factors for chronic disease.”
Since installing the drinking fountains, grantees have filled more than 65,000 water bottles.
"Since putting this fountain in, we have been able to remove our vending machine from which water, juice and soda were sold after school,” said Constance Krocak, Principal of Holy Cross School, a grantee in Webster, Minn. “What a great change for us all!”
Read on to learn about other ways the fountains are making an impact in Minnesota.
Brainerd Public Library - Brainerd, Crow Wing County.
For Brainerd Public Library, increasing access to drinking water was just the starting point. The library launched a month-long “Rethink Your Drink” campaign with local State Health Improvement Program (SHIP) partner Crow Wing Energized to promote behavior change.
Jolene Bradley, former Library Manger at Brainerd Public Library told Lakeland PBS: “We want people to think about what they’re drinking, the sugar content involved, the high calories that come with those sugary drinks and use water instead.”
High School Hockey Rink - International Falls
Before receiving a drinking fountain mini grant, the only source of water at International Falls High School's rink was the vending machine. Players had two option: they could purchase bottled water, which may not have fluoride, or a sugary beverage, which are known to increase risk of cavities. Both limited those who couldn't afford to buy their own drink.
Now, both players on the rink and fans in the stand have access to this free and healthy beverage choice.
Lead is a poisonous metal that can cause long-term health and behavioral problems. Coming in contact with too much lead can damage the brain, kidneys and nervous system. In children, lead can also slow development or cause learning, behavior and hearing problems. Lead can get in your drinking water as it passes through a home or building’s plumbing system which is why MDH recommends taking action to protect your health if you may have lead plumbing. These drinking fountains filter out contaminants like lead, ensuring water is safe. (Learn more about lead in drinking water)
Writes Anna Schliep, MDH Drinking Water Protection:
"New rules passed in 2018 requiring schools to test for lead in water. That, paired with the lead contamination in Flint, Mich., has brought attention to lead issues and communities are working to improve efforts to reduce lead exposure. In some cases, it may not be feasible to remove all lead sources from a plumbing system. Using a filter like those on the water-bottle filling stations can be an effective way to make sure safe water is provided to the community."
Drinking fountains with water bottle filling stations represent multiple pillars of public health.
- Protect teeth by providing access to fluoridated water.
- Keep drinking water safe and clean.
- Support healthy beverage choices and good nutrition.
Recognizing the opportunity to align work, the Oral Health Program partnered with the Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives (OSHII) and the Drinking Water Protection Section with the Environmental Health Division.
"We all share a goal of helping Minnesotans improve their health and increase access to healthy choices," said Teresa Ambroz, who represented OSHII in grant planning and implementation. "This grant provided an opportunity for our internal teams to connect the dots and create relationships for more collaboration down the road. This lays a foundation we can build upon to continue sharing innovative practice and make more meaningful changes in the community."
- Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency - Virginia
- Benson Schools
- Blue Earth Schools
- Brainerd Public Library
- Goodridge Schools
- Hmong American Partnership - St. Paul
- Holy Cross Catholic School - Webster
- International Falls Bronco Arena
- Luverne Housing and Redevelopment Authority
- Mountain Lake Public Schools
- New London-Spicer Schools
- Parkview Center School - Roseville
- Partners in Quality Care - St. Paul
- Perham Health
- White Bear Lake Area Schools
- Winona Public Library