Drinks with less sugar to fight diabetes? This primary school doesn't even have a drink stall

Riverside Primary School encourages its students to drink plain water and to refill their water bottles at the water coolers all around the school.
Riverside Primary School encourages its students to drink plain water and to refill their water bottles at the water coolers all around the school.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Riverside Primary School advocates the drinking of plain water and for all to bring their own water bottles every day.
Riverside Primary School advocates the drinking of plain water and for all to bring their own water bottles every day.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - Even as primary schools are aiming to fight diabetes following a Health Promotion Board move to, among other things, get drinks sold with less sugar, one school has already been waging the war against sugar for years.

Riverside Primary School in Woodlands Crescent has never had a drink stall since 2013, when the school started.

Said its principal, Mrs Sharon Siew: "We have always advocated the drinking of plain water and for everyone to bring their water bottles every day, and to refill them at the water coolers all around the school.

"Consuming too many sugary drinks may also spoil the children's appetite. We have to start at a young age so that it becomes part of our lifestyle."

Parents and students supported the move, with some even posting positive messages on the school's Facebook page.

Madam Wendy Yeo, whose daughter Eunice Yong is a Primary 4 pupil at the school, said she encourages Eunice to drink water.

The 49-year-old said: "Parents were told of the move to do without a drink stall and all of us have been very supportive."

Eunice said: "If we drink too many sugary drinks when we are young, we might develop many health complications when we are older and it would be difficult to turn back."

Kirtana Sureshkumar, another pupil at the school, said: "Sometimes I may feel a bit jealous, especially when I hear from my friends that they have a drink stall in their school. But upon deeper thought, I know our school adopts a healthier lifestyle and too much sugary drinks is not good."

The 11-year-old Primary 5 pupil added: "It is definitely better to not have a drink stall."

There are also no vending machines selling sugary drinks either. Students who forget to bring their water bottles can pick up bottles of mineral water at the school's general office.

Teachers and staff alike are also strongly encouraged to stick to drinking water.

Still, parents are allowed to pack drinks such as Milo to school for their children.

Other primary schools have also been taking steps to cut down on sugary drinks, although not quite to the extent of Riverside Primary.

The 69 other schools that The Straits Times spoke to said they have been following the Health Promotion Board's (HPB) Healthy Meals in Schools Programme, which also encourages schools to sell drinks with less sugar.

For instance, carbonated drinks should contain 7g or less sugar per 100ml.

HPB also conducts assessments at schools twice a year to look for areas they can improve in when it comes to offering healthier meals.

Two schools - Xishan Primary and Ai Tong School - have gone a step further to encourage healthier drinking habits.

This year, Xishan Primary, along Yishun Street 21, decided to stop the sale of carbonated drinks.

Currently, only packet drinks, milk, fruits and jelly are sold at the drink stall. The school has also removed the vending machine which used to dispense carbonated drinks.

Mr Roland Neo, Xishan Primary's physical education and co-curricular activities head, said of the school's move: "It is definitely healthier for the children. A lot of students used to buy carbonated drinks in the past.

"Bottled drinks are also no longer sold as their volume is greater and children will finish the whole bottle within a short time. The (drinks) vendor was given time to finish her stock."

More recently, Ai Tong School, located in Bishan, said it stopped the sale of sugary bottled drinks to pupils from the third quarter of this year. "This is an in-school initiative in line with the Healthy Meals in Schools Programme by HPB," said a school spokesman.