Kimbal Musk — Elon’s brother — is leading a $25 million mission to fix food in schools across the US

For nearly a decade, Kimbal Musk — Elon's brother — has been on a mission to bring fresh produce to cities across the United States. 

In 2011, Musk launched a nonprofit program, called Learning Gardens, in 300 public schools in American cities. Part-playground, part-outdoor classroom, the learning gardens serve as spaces where students learn about the science of growing fruits and veggies — and that they can taste great, too.

Elon Musk and family:

Elon Musk's mother, Maye Musk
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Elon Musk's mother, Maye Musk
89th Academy Awards - Oscars Vanity Fair Party - Beverly Hills, California, U.S. - 26/02/17 ? Elon Musk and his mother Maye Musk. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
89th Academy Awards - Oscars Vanity Fair Party - Beverly Hills, California, U.S. - 26/02/17 ? Elon Musk and his mother Maye Musk. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 20: Maye Musk attends Swarovski Crystal Wonderland Party on September 20, 2017 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Stefania M. D'Alessandro/Getty Images for Swarovski)
MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 21: Maye Musk walks the red carpet of amfAR Gala Milano on September 21, 2017 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/Getty Images for amfAR)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: Maye Musk attends the Zero + Maria Cornejo fashion show during New York Fashion Week on September 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Model Maye Musk walks the runway at the Project Runway fashion show during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery 1, Skylight Clarkson Sq on September 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images For NYFW: The Shows)
Maye Musk walks the runway for the Concept Korea show during New York Fashion Week on September 8, 2017 in New York. Musk, mother of the famous boss of Tesla Elon Musk, will take part in the Concept Korea show. / AFP PHOTO / EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 06: Model Maye Musk attends the NYFW Kickoff Party, A Celebration Of Personal Style, hosted by E!, ELLE & IMG and sponsored by TRESEMME, on September 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for NBCUniversal)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 04: Model Maye Musk (L) and The Business of Fashion founder and editor-in-chief Imran Amed attend an intimate dinner to celebrate The Business of Fashion's 'The America Issue' at Ray's at LACMA on May 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Business of Fashion)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - JUNE 03: Model Maye Musk attends The Tenth Annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic at Liberty State Park on June 3, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Veuve Clicquot)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 08: Maye Musk arrives at the 19th Annual amfAR New York Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on February 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Tachman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 13: Maye Musk attends the 'First Monday In May' world premiere during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival opening night at BMCC John Zuccotti Theater on April 13, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Now Musk is taking his nonprofit national and renaming it "Big Green." In April, 100 schools in Detroit, Michigan will break ground on learning gardens. The Detroit project is backed by $5 million in funding from donors including Gordon Food Service, Pathways Foundation, and philanthropist Carole Ilitch.

Musk's team also plans to expand Big Green to four other cities, including Colorado Springs, Colorado; Louisville, Kentucky; Long Beach, California; and San Antonio, Texas. The $25 million effort could see 100 more gardens built in each location by the end of 2020.

In an interview with Business Insider, Musk explained the genesis of the nonprofit's new vision.

"As we started to grow, we realized we needed a name that talked to the importance of scale, the importance of reaching all kids of America," he said.

"And then on the 'green' side, we wanted to teach kids about food, but also to pay homage to the fact that we're getting them outside; we're getting them connected to nature and to understand the way the Earth and climate works — and really give them an education beyond food. We didn't want to pigeonhole ourselves in food. We do so much more than that."

In high school learning gardens, students have the option to run their own small food businesses. They grow their own produce, sell it to local restaurants and companies — as well as at farmer's markets — and then keep their profits. (In Chicago, a Google cafeteria is a buyer.) On average, participating students make $400 a year, Musk said.

Big Green now also has a national board, which includes Valor Equity Partners founder Antonio Gracias, Planet Heritage cofounder Cindy Mercer, and Memphis Superintendent Dorsey Hopson. Since 2011, the initiative has received funding from mega-corporations like Wells Fargo, Walmart, and Chipotle, which Musk believes will help the nonprofit scale. He added that Big Green is open to working with independent or local businesses as well. 

Musk hopes that Big Green will help fix the way American kids eat. Since junk food is often inexpensive and "funneled to low-income communities," he believes that inaccessible fresh produce is a socioeconomic and human rights issue.

"Kids today are totally disconnected from real food. The industrial food that we create is high-calorie, low in nutrients, doesn't taste good, and shipped from thousands of miles away. And we've been creating a massive amount of obesity and diabetes," he said.

"In some low-income communities, nearly 40% of kids will go into kindergarten [overweight or] obese. That's just unforgivable. That's not something they did to themselves — it's something we did to them. It's time that we realize that it's a human right to understand what we are putting in our bodies."

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