Steph And Ayesha Curry Turn School Bus Into Free Bookstore, Pantry For Oakland Kids
NBA star Steph Curry and his wife, entrepreneur Ayesha Curry, descended from their colorful bus Wednesday afternoon to a small crowd of cheering children in East Oakland, California. As the Currys—who are practically royalty in the Bay Area—took pictures and signed autographs, groups of children began to line up at the side of the bus, clamoring for free books being handed out by volunteers.
It’s the kind of excitement the Currys were hoping for with the Eat. Learn. Play. Bus, a mobile resource unit that will distribute hot meals, grocery staples, fresh produce and free books to underserved children in Oakland. The completely refurbished school bus is decked out with bright murals featuring the Currys, multiple flat-screen TVs, a rooftop deck, speakers and a basketball hoop. It’s a food truck, free bookstore and entertainment center all rolled into one.
The idea is to reduce the stigma around receiving free resources by making the experience fun—and improve Oakland’s literacy rate. According to the nonprofit Oakland Literacy Coalition, only 35.1% of Oakland Unified School District students are reading at or above grade level.
“We wanted to make it colorful and have all the hydraulics and antics to have that feeling like when you’re a kid and the ice cream trick would come driving down the street. We wanted kids to feel that same excitement about books and food,” Ayesha Curry told Forbes.
It took roughly $350,000 to renovate the old school bus, but books and food will push the cost of operating the vehicle to at least $1 million per year, Chris Helfrich, CEO of Eat. Learn. Play, the Curry’s charitable entity, told Forbes. The foundation—which accepts outside donations—will foot the bill, though Helfrich declined to say how much money the Currys have contributed to the nonprofit since they founded it in 2018. He did say that the Currys fund all of the foundation’s operating expenses, so any outside donations will go directly toward its services. With “seven-figure” donations each year, Helfrich said, the Currys are the foundation’s largest donors.
Steph is the 11th highest-paid athlete in the world, according to Forbes, with earnings of $74.5 million in 2021. Though he made $34.5 million from basketball this year, Steph’s business ventures off the court have earned him even more. He has his own production company, an Under Armour
Steph and Ayesha’s foundation, Eat. Learn. Play., aims to deliver 100,000 books, 50,000 hot meals and more than 500,000 pounds of fresh produce to families over the next year. The Alameda County Food Bank will operate the bus on its regular route across Oakland, though exactly where it will show up is still being hammered out. The bus will also host community events, such as book readings, cooking demonstrations, youth sports clinics and health screenings, according to its website.
“This has exceeded all our expectations in terms of something that’s new and unique and fun—and it’s also with something that has a purpose in terms of creating joy around literacy,” Steph Curry told Forbes.
The Eat. Learn. Play. Bus is a continuation of the Currys’ growing charitable efforts in Oakland, which expanded rapidly during the pandemic. After schools shut down, Eat. Learn. Play helped start a massive food delivery program for students and their families. The foundation has so far delivered 16 million meals across the city through the program, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Steph said his family doesn’t have a concrete dollar figure for how much they want to donate to charity over their lifetime. Eventually, both he and Ayesha potentially see a fleet of these buses roving around Oakland. And after Steph retires from pro basketball, he wants to prioritize the foundation and other charity work.
“For me, it’s about approving the right programs and processes so that when I’m done playing, I’ll have the capital time to invest in terms of how we scale (the foundation) up,” he said.