Health On Wheels: San Diego Nonprofit Drives Home Sustainable Message
When it comes to environmental education, local nonprofit 1to1 Movement believes in the importance of hands-on lessons. But many San Diego schools it serves don’t have on-campus gardens or farm-to-cafeteria programs, and coordinating field trips was logistically challenging. So instead of bringing students to a farm, 1to1 is bringing a farm to students—via a double-decker bus.
The bus initiative, dubbed STACKED, will start rolling into schools this spring, after a transformation that turned a drab 1988 British bus with old vinyl flooring and brown and taupe floral-patterned wall panels into a brightly colored, bio-dieselpowered model of sustainability, complete with a worm bin and hydroponic garden.
“We are very cognizant of the fact that with our organizational capacity, we can only start the conversation about food and sustainability—but with that introduction we can create enthusiasm with parents, school administrators and students,” says Jonathan Zaidman, 1to1’s executive director. “Once they are excited, they can create solutions applicable to them. That’s why how we tell the story is critical. We want to show people a fun, inclusive, accessible experience and tie the content into that.”
Finding the double-decker that serves as STACKED’s storytelling vehicle may have been easy—a quick Google search led Zaidman to Santee-based importer British Bus Company—but getting it ready required much more effort. The bus had to be retrofitted from top to bottom, which included everything from ripping out the seats to installing a skylight to spur plant growth to devising an irrigation system.
“We had to go over every single element with a fine-tooth comb,” Zaidman says. “It also touched on the challenge of finding the right partners, which is not a standard process; you can’t just Google ‘double-decker bus flooring removal.’ We tried to find people who worked in parallel spaces so it wasn’t too far out of their wheelhouse. We needed to find people who were creative and resourceful.”
Those partners included Living Earth Systems, which worked on the aquaponics; Miller Hull Partnership, which provided architectural services; and JJ Hynes Furniture & Cabinetry, which installed the 100%-sustainable cork flooring that was donated by Cali Bamboo. Some companies worked pro bono, and with other donations, fundraising and corporate contributors such as Whole Foods and Chipotle, the project cost was $150,000. Creating the content for STACKED’s story was equally important. The program is geared toward kindergarten through 12th-grade students, with lessons that are age- and grade-level appropriate. Zaidman says future hands-on activities could include planting seedlings and making healthy rawfood snacks. “We pride ourselves on creating content that’s not only interactive but also geographically and socially relevant to the populations we are reaching,” Zaidman says. “We’ve created an educational model that touches on how, collectively and individually, people interact with food—going into communities and talking about food and accessing their cultural background instead of ignoring it.”
It’s been about a year and a half since the idea for STACKED first sprouted, and Zaidman is excited to see the bus—the first of its kind—begin visiting schools. With its emphasis on sustainability and community health, the ability to offer diverse lessons and its spirit of positive environmentalism, the program “is really exemplary of everything we do as an organization,” he says.
For more on STACKED and the 1to1 Movement, visit the website.