By Annika McGinnis
WASHINGTON, July 23 – (Reuters) – First lady Michelle Obama took to the White House lawn on Tuesday along with children from a local YMCA and summer camp to expand the country’s “Drink Up” campaign aimed at getting Americans to drink more water.
In the face of criticism that the 2013 campaign encouraged children to drink more bottled water rather than cheaper tap water, Obama announced new partnerships on Tuesday with water filtration, drinking fountain and water bottle companies to emphasize increased access to water rather than bottled water consumption.
The companies, including Brita, Nalgene and S’well Bottle, will give schools grants to purchase more water filling stations, install hydration stations in underserved communities and brand hundreds of thousands of reusable water bottles with the program’s logo.
But Obama still touted more bottled water sales as a success measure for the program’s first year, citing a July Nielsen Catalina Solutions study that found a “Drink Up” publicity campaign boosted bottled water sales 3 percent among those exposed to the ads.
Obama also used the opportunity to talk up her controversial healthy lunch program, which has come under attack by House Republicans who said kids throwing away much of the healthful food led to increased costs. Their amendment to a federal appropriations bill would give some schools waivers to get out of the new rules.
Ninety percent of schools are now successfully serving healthy lunches, Obama said on Tuesday in the White House’s State Dining Room.
“Their kids are truly enjoying these new healthy lunches – go figure!” she said. “There’s a simple reason for that. It’s because those districts actually put some effort into marketing the new meals to the kids. They didn’t just sit back and say, ‘Oh, the kids like junk food, so let’s just give them junk food.”
On Tuesday afternoon, about three dozen children from a local YMCA and a summer camp sat on the White House’s South Lawn in front of a 60-foot by 43-foot water droplet composed of 2,000 blue “Drink Up” water bottles.
“Water is the best drink for you,” the first lady told the group. “It keeps you hydrated; it’s nutritious; your body needs it to keep you moving, especially on days like today.”
But some kids seemed most excited to get a hug from the first lady on the White House lawn.
“Oh my God, I am never washing this shirt,” one boy told his friend after receiving his hug.
(Reporting by Annika McGinnis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)