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Minnesota Legislature

Child care centers may be able to use reusable water bottles

Overregulation and inconsistent regulations are perpetuating a severe lack of child care, providers say.

Aiming to lift one of those regulations, HF1841, sponsored by Rep. Liz Olson (DFL-Duluth), would allow children who attend private child care centers to bring and use reusable water bottles.

Unlike pre-kindergarten or family day care providers, private child care centers are currently required to serve water in single-use cups, which prohibits them from using, or allowing children to be served, water from reusable bottles.

This proposal would remove that requirement, grant parents the freedom to send water bottles with their children to day care, and potentially have a positive environmental impact, Olson said.   

The bill was held over Tuesday by the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division for possible omnibus bill inclusion. The companion, SF1919, awaits action by the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee. Sen. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth) is the Senate sponsor.

The proposal was inspired by a group of mothers from Duluth, who expressed concern over not being able to send water bottles with their kids. Chelsa Nelson-Preble explained that when her young son was transferred from an infant room to a toddler room he was no longer allowed to use a bottle, which posed challenges.

“Instead he was provided a small Dixie cup with water in it, and as a 14-month-old, really struggles to drink water from this cup,” she said. “We really struggled with him not only moving to a new room but then not being able to regulate his own body and quench his thirst.”

Elizabeth Bangert, owner of Here We Grow Early Childhood Center in Mankato, also supports the bill, saying that overregulation of providers, particularly private providers, has caused a child care crisis.  She noted that providers have been cited and fined for noncompliance, and even though they’re able to get a variance to the rule, obtaining it requires an intensive 10-step process.   

“I’m thankful for this legislation,” she said. “It’s the tip of the iceberg.”

In addition to modifying the single-serve cup restriction, the bill would provide sanitation requirements. Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (DFL-Eden Prairie) suggested this provision shifts another regulation onto providers and asked Olson to consider modifying the bill as it continues.  

“It does state that the child care program must wash the water bottles, rinse them, sanitize them daily and then store them clean and dry,” Kotyza-Witthuhn said. “Would it make more sense potentially, to put the onus on the parent and give them the choice of taking the water bottle home?”  

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