What cuts down on costs, helps the environment, and most importantly, keeps kids in shape?

Walking to school.

With childhood obesity rates at historic highs, there is significant demand to fix this harmful epidemic, and this solution is as simple as they come.

A unique program, called the Walking School Bus, collects kids along a route and together, they make their way to school as a group – not totally dissimilar to the bus experience, but with the added benefit of exercise and fresh air. With no bus driver needed, transportation money instead goes towards a chaperoning adult who not only leads the children and ensures their safety, but also can act as a mentor and role model for them.

Although walking programs can be found running independently of each other throughout the country, many of them are funded by the National Center for Safe Routes to School, a program established to help find alternative routes for children to get to school.

Walking School Bus programs vary in size – in Providence, Rhode Island, only 14 kids participated last academic year, whereas in Columbia, Missouri, 450 children from 13 different school districts took part.

Sadly, Columbia’s program has lost funding, but the Walking School Bus program still exists and can be set up in your community. Here’s how.