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Hope Springs Eternal in a Food Swamp, Thanks to Stephen Ritz of Green Bronx Machine

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How One School Teacher Used the Power of Plants to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools in a Food Swamp

In this episode, I speak with Stephen Ritz, founder of Green Bronx Machine.


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About Stephen Ritz

Stephen Ritz is a South Bronx educator/administrator who believes that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn, and earn in a better one. Moving generations of students into spheres of personal and academic successes which they had never imagined — while reclaiming and rebuilding the Bronx — Stephen’s extended student and community family have grown more than 50,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance.

Stephen helped earn his school the first ever Citywide Award of Excellence from the NYC Strategic Alliance for Health and directly attributes these results to growing vegetables in school. The National Association of Secondary School Principals cited Stephen’s work and Green Bronx Machine as one of five national exemplars of service learning. In 2016, Stephen was invited by the White House to present at State of STEM – installing an indoor garden in the process; a replica of Stephen’s class was installed in the United States Botanical Gardens as well.

He is also the author of Power of a Plant, which is available here

Why You Should Listen

Access to clean, healthy food is possibly one of the largest issues in the United States. Around 110 million people live in food insecure households and rates of obesity and diabetes are on the rise, with the CDC estimating that one in three adults could have diabetes by 2050. The sad truth is it’s hardest to find healthy food in the places that need it the most, however, cheap, fast food can be found on nearly every corner. 

This is a phenomenon that Stephen Ritz refers to as a food swamp – an area with an excess of food, but food that you really shouldn’t be eating. In his community of the South Bronx, Stephen has seen the impact that living in a food swamp can have on personal health and noticed how that has a ripple effect on the entire consciousness. 

Stephen is an educator and administrator who has helped transform the lives of his students in the “worst high school in New York City,” by showing them how to grow food. 

Green Bronx Machine, a powerhouse non-profit started by Stephen, is home to the National Health, Wellness and Learning Center, a state of the art facility with a year round commercial indoor vertical farm and food processing kitchen with solar and alternative energy generators. Here, students are empowered to change their lives by eating better and learning real life job skills that can pull them out of otherwise harmful situations. 

In this episode of #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias, Stephen tells me the story of how he founded Green Bronx Machine and how it has completely transformed the landscape of the South Bronx for countless kids and their families. He has even written a book Power of a Plant, that details how this simple mission can change the world.

This is one of the most energetic and inspiring interviews I’ve done to date, so listen in to hear how this machine got started – and where it’s heading next! 

People/Companies/Resources Mentioned in This Episode

#EatForThePlanet With Nil Zacharias Podcast Links

 

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