Youth Access to Nature Fund

Youth Access to Nature Fund

In 2016, the late Kathryn Riddell approached the San Francisco Foundation to help create a giving plan that would combine her key interests: children, the environment, and education. Her vision, in partnership with the foundation’s commitment to racial and economic equity, helped launch the Youth Access to Nature Fund. Since then, the fund’s growing pool of donors has helped provide hands-on outdoor experiences to more than 100,000 Bay Area children who now can blossom into lifelong nature enthusiasts. 

Kathryn Riddell with her family and staff from The Watershed Project, a Youth Access to Nature Fund grantee, in 2013.

The fund expands access to nature by creating outdoor experiences for many children of color who deserve access to safe, green spaces, and who otherwise would not easily get outdoors due to the cost of transportation, gear and other expenses. The vision is to provide as many opportunities as possible for children to interact with and develop a lifelong appreciation of nature.

The Youth Access to Nature Fund has helped Bay Area children experience the ocean for the first time, visit the awe-inspiring redwoods, plant food and flowers, and have the formative experiences in nature that benefit all children. Our hope is that these meaningful experiences will help kids, no matter where they live nor what their background, reach their full potential and develop a deep love for nature. We also hope they will be inspired to protect our planet — for themselves and for future generations. 

Support the Youth Access to Nature Fund 
  • Make a grant from your  donor advised fund
  • Send a check to the San Francisco Foundation, for the purpose: Youth Access to Nature
  • Give online  by selecting Youth Access to Nature in the menu 

Questions? Please contact Francesca Vietor at fvietor[at]sff.org. 

Grants

The fund provides grants in three program areas, and grant proposals are accepted on an invitation-only basis. 

Youth Access to Nature Fund Cohort: these grants help ensure that all children experience nature, helping them become strong leaders and students, and improving their mental and physical health. Since 2016, thirty-five organizations (view our 2020 grantees) have received more than $5 million in grants. In addition to funding, grantees receive capacity building trainings in order to build organizational stability and grow the diversity of the outdoor education fieldGrants for this cohort have focused on the following outcomes:

    • Inclusiveness: Ensure that all children benefit from nature, and that organizations facilitating outdoor experiences for children also reflect the diversity of our communities
    • Organizational Sustainability: Strengthen the nonprofits that provide youth experiences in nature by investing in their governance, financial stability, strategic planning and program evaluation
    • Growing the Movement: Through storytelling, shift public perception on the importance of nature for youth 
    • Systems Change: Create wide-scale opportunities for children to access the outdoors by partnering with institutions such as school districts and health centers to dismantle racism in the outdoors 

Read Grantee Story: The Healing Power of Brown Girl Surf

Oakland Goes Outdoors: a collaboration with the Oakland Unified School District, Oakland Public Education Fund, and Bay Area Wilderness Training, this program provides Oakland students with greater access to nature and the outdoors. Launched in 2019, the program aims to provide all 7,200 Oakland public middle school students with regular outdoor experiences. With increased donor support, we hope to serve all 37,000 K-12 public school students in Oakland.

Read Grantee Story: Breathe Again

Health Equity in Nature: On average, American children spend just four to seven minutes per day outdoors. What’s more, a growing body of research tells us that limited access to the outdoors contributes to widening health inequities. To counter this, the medical community is increasingly turning to nature as a critical public health intervention that leads to happier, healthier children. This funding priority supports organizations that help children overcome trauma and develop a sense of caring and belonging.

In 2020, in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fund began supporting health equity in nature via a grant to the Center for Nature and Health at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in OaklandThe first of its kind, the center prescribes nature experiences to Bay Area children who have experienced adversity, such as homelessness, who have chronic diseasesand who struggle with social isolation. Says the center’s founder and director, Dr. Nooshin Razani“When you play in nature, you can create anything you want. You can connect with other people, with animals and other life, and feeling connected is important for your health.”

Read Grantee Story: The Clinical Case for Nature