Unsafe water is a principal cause of childhood mortality globally. Some communities that Feed the Hungry supports have little to no water available locally, while others have water that is contaminated. For most families, bottled water is simply unaffordable. There are no functioning water fountains in San Miguel schools, and children do not carry water from home.
The water consumed in San Miguel de Allende comes from a large underground reservoir known as the Alto Río Laja Aquifer, which is declining at an alarming rate. The underground water that remains is contaminated with arsenic and fluoride—up to 14 times World Health Organization recommendations. Children’s bodies absorb these contaminants at a much higher rate.
Based on water studies conducted where we provide food service, we have found that the water in some communities has excessive levels of fluoride and arsenic. Exposure to high concentrations of these during childhood can cause developmental disabilities, crippling skeletal fluorosis, organ failure, diabetes, and cancer.
Good hydration is necessary to avoid fatigue. Many school children have a difficult time staying alert in class because they are hungry, but also due to dehydration. We launched the Student Hydration Program in 2022 to provide clean water for children in the classrooms and for food preparation in the school kitchens. Each month, purified water in large refillable jugs is delivered for nearly 2,500 children in 19 communities. Feed the Hungry also provides refillable plastic water bottles to every child, and they are encouraged to hydrate with water instead of sugared beverages.
Workshops for mothers and for our school cooks are conducted to raise awareness about water quality and the importance of using purified water even in food preparation, as the concentration of dangerous heavy metals increases when boiling unpurified water.
The program has been very well accepted by kids, mothers, teachers, and school principals.