A ‘water-only’ school nutrition policy: impetus, implementation and impact – views from the Principal ‘water-only’ school nutrition policy

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Gerhard Sundborn
Loma Veatupu
Simon Thornley
Jacquie Bay
Jazmin Greig
Susan Dunlop


Sugar, Nutrition policy, water only, schools


Yendarra primary school is located in Ōtara Auckland, New Zealand and is comprised of Pasifika and Māori students aged from 5 – 11 years old. The school is notable for its prioritisation of nutrition in its curriculum and policies. Here, we describe the reasoning for, implementation of and impacts of the policy from interviews of staff. Implementation of the ‘water-only’ policy in 2006, was primarily to address behavioural problems. Almost immediately, significant improvements in behaviour were observed. Following this positive experience, school leadership then focussed on improving school nutrition. Initially, most students did not bring lunch or brought unhealthy processed foods. The leadership team undertook a process including clearly communicating with the school community, using positive reinforcement, valuing student agency, and role modelling preferred behaviours to promote water-only and healthy-kai (food) practices in the school. This enabled a transformational change in the school and communities’ values and culture where water and healthy kai became a norm. Fifteen years on the benefits of these policies are wide-ranging, including improved behaviour, better achievement, happy students, better oral health and improved well-being.

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