San Francisco Walks to School
A generation ago, nearly half of all U.S. kids walked or bicycled to school. Today, less than fifteen percent do, with the majority arriving at school in private automobiles. It’s no coincidence, then, that studies show more than a quarter of San Francisco’s children are overweight. But a new program hopes to change that trend, while reducing greenhouse gas pollution and increasing fun.
With the help of a $500,000 grant from the federal government, San Francisco has launched its own “Safe Routes to Schools” program, aimed at encouraging students and parents to walk or bike to school.
At Longfellow Elementary last Wednesday, October 7th, students joined parents on a “walking school bus.” Although the date was part of International Walk to School Day, organizers plan group walks to school every Wednesday—with the ultimate goal of walking to school every day.
Jackie Chavez: [0:05] Today is National Walk to School Day. And it's also a Wednesday. And as far as Longfellow goes, we walk to school every Wednesday. But today is the first National Walk to School Day, so it's actually an even bigger event. But it's just a launch-off. It's just the kick-off. It's just the beginning for the rest of the school year.
Speaker: [0:25] How do you go to school?
Child: [0:26] We just walk.
Jackie Chavez: [0:29] Walking is the best way to get around. This is a city. We're all city people. For city people, really, walking is the best way of transportation, actually. The whole city's only seven-by-seven. Really, technically, you should be able to walk just about anywhere.
John Avalos: [0:42] This is a great step. It's about public education. It's creating a culture of walking again. We've created a culture of driving everywhere, and I think it's great for people to have pause and decide, "Hey, I don't have to get in my car today. I can actually just walk to school, walk to the store. It's not that far away. I'll feel good, I'll breathe some fresh air, and it'll be great for the environment."
Jackie Chavez: [1:05] It's great for the planet. It's great for the kids. It gets them alert. So by the time they get to school, their blood is pumping. They've already talked with friends. They've already got their exercise.
Jackie Chavez: [1:15] Lift your hands up high again. I want to see everybody's hands up high. High, high, up Sky! Reach up. Reach to the sky! There you go...go [overlapping talks]
Jackie Chavez: [1:25] Obesity is on the rise here with children. Less than 15 percent of children actually walk to school these days. And obesity in this country is just climbing. So when we meet at McDonald's, we meet on the outside, not on the inside.
Jackie Chavez: [1:40] Go grab a snack after you've grabbed that healthy, nutritious... [overlapping talk]
Jackie Chavez: [1:43] And I provide for them healthy snacks and teach them about that there's good ways to eat on the go. You can grab an apple. You can grab a banana. You can grab a cereal bar. You can walk to school and have a healthy, nutritious snack.
Jason Serafino-Agar: [1:55] With the decline in physical activity and our sedentary lifestyles, where we're sitting at a computer or you're sitting in front of the TV or you're sitting staring at a cell phone, we're not getting out there. We're not getting the daily recommended 60 minutes of exercise that we need. And so this is a way to not go out of your way to exercise but have it be part of your day, and have it be something that you just naturally do, have it be part of your lifestyle. [sound of children talking]
Jason Serafino-Agar: [2:26] They can walk and bike. They can get more exercise. They can do something about global climate change and pollution.
Speaker: [2:32] If you walk to school today, you get to take a piece of pollution off of our pollution board, because you didn't pollute today. In that walk from McDonald's to here, you weren't polluting.
Ana Validzic: [2:46] As part of our Safe Routes to School grant, we are working with five elementary schools in our first year: Longfellow Elementary, Bryant Elementary, George Washington Carver, Sunnyside, and Sunset schools. [3:01] We're going to expand to 15 total next year. And the schools that got picked, all of them have a majority of kids that live within a mile of their school, so it's actually reasonable to ask them to walk or bike to school.
Jackie Chavez: [3:17] We walk on Wednesday, and somebody, at the end of the year, will win a bike from a raffle. Now my next goal...now that I've done that and it's such a success, my next goal is to drop the Wednesdays and just make it Walk to Win every day: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Mondays. Every day. [children chattering]