Sustainability in Practice: San Diego Schools Turns Old Bus into Mobile Farm

San Diego Schools hope to transform a school bus into a traveling farm.

San Diego Unified School District is taking the classic school icon—a yellow bus—and transforming it into a mobile farm. The project is modeled after the Truck Farm, a traveling “farm” planted in the back of an old pickup truck.

“Obviously it’s not a farm, but a tool to inspire people to think about where food comes from, why it’s important to know where your food comes from, how food is grown and to show that you can grow food in weird, exciting places,” says Vanessa Zajfen, farm-to-school specialist for the district.

Zajfen says the district was looking for a way to expand its farm-to-school program in an engaging way that also would be a learning resource for the schools. “We thought, ‘Hey, we have a bus yard over there with a bunch of buses that are sidelined for various reasons. Could we convert one of those into a farm and make it like the Truck Farm?’”

While the bus farm doesn’t exist yet, Zajfen says she hopes the project will be running soon. One challenge is the bus farm isn’t being funded by the district, so Zajfen is raising funds from outside sources, such as Whole Foods.

To transform the bus into a farm, the seats will be ripped out and the roof of the bus will be removed. Zajfen hopes a glass top will replace the roof, which might also be able to open like a hinge so that an educator can stand in the bus giving lessons while students sit on the outside. Zajfen hopes to install an electrical system and wiring for a hydroponic growing system. Produce will be planted in raised beds. “We have to think about how much soil can we put in a bus and if it gets wet how heavy is it going to be and can a bus [be driven] with all of that [weight]?” asks Zajfen.

Once the bus is running, Zajfen says the mobile farm will visit schools three days a week, in addition to community events several times a month. While the bus is at the schools, students will be able to plant produce in one bed and harvest produce from another bed. The harvested produce will then be served on the school’s salad bar.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

Ideas and Innovation
idea bulb innovation concept

There’s no feeling quite like the “spark of inspiration” that Dawn Aubrey , associate director of housing for dining services at the University of Illinois, cites in this month’s Steal This Idea-themed cover story. That rush of blood and endorphins to the brain when everything comes together is like nothing else, and often finds me falling over furniture because I’m so excited to start putting plans into action. Unfortunately, I also bruise easily.

Throughout this issue, we’ve highlighted stealable ideas in all realms of noncommercial foodservice, from protein-focused sides to...

Managing Your Business
empty drive thru window

The University of Vermont Medical Center cafes often overflowed with diners at lunchtime. But adding another cafe wouldn’t be enough. “We definitely needed another place for people,” says Garden Atrium supervisor Tanya McDonald.

That’s why the UVM Medical Center this fall opened a takeout window in its new Garden Atrium cafe, a part of the design scheme before the cafe even opened last year.

Not wanting to pressure the staff—and struggling with technological delays—dining services began with a monthslong soft launch, opening the takeout window to about 200 employees through...

Ideas and Innovation
university michigan hat coffee cookies

When it comes to fostering engagement in sustainability efforts, you can step up and do the work, or wait for it to happen to you, says Keith Soster, director of sustainability and student engagement for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Here’s a look at Soster’s job description, and how the position has redefined the program.

Q: How did your position come to be?

A: Before Michigan Dining went through a reorganization, requests for student and community partnerships went to whoever could be reached. They wanted someone to be the face of student and community connections—...

FSD Resources