While Elon Musk is working in the cosmos, his brother Kimbal Musk is knuckle-deep in the earth. The tech veteran who made his fortune in turn-of-the-millennium Silicon Valley (in 1999 he sold a digital mapping system for $307 million, then invested in PayPal and Tesla. He's now on the board of SpaceX and Chipotle) has set his sights on solving school nutrition. On Wednesday, he announced that his nonprofit organization, The Kitchen Community, which creates Learning Gardens in schools, is expanding into a new, national venture called Big Green and plans to scale up to 1,000 new Learning Gardens in 10 cities by the end of 2020.
Musk found his way to food in New York City, whereas a recently minted millionaire he enrolled in the French Culinary Institute. Then 9/11 struck. Musk spent six weeks cooking for first-responders at Ground Zero, not far from his own apartment. The experience spurred him to move to Colorado, where he opened The Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant, and became involved with school garden initiatives in his community. "I was astonished to see how excited the kids were to plant, harvest, and EAT vegetables that they had grown," Musk wrote on Medium. It wasn't long before he launched The Kitchen Community, his own effort to install learning gardens in local schools where children, particularly those disadvantaged, could learn about nutrition and ecology through hands-on instruction. He had success in Denver, then Compton and Hawthorne in California, then Chicago, Memphis, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. "Up until that point, building two school gardens per year was considered a strong achievement," said Musk.