Stephen Ritz is a teacher in New York’s deprived South Bronx district where he began a pioneering project to farm plants and vegetables indoors at Discovery High School. The school’s so-called “edible walls” gave birth to the Green Bronx Machine, a project that helps other schools in the US start their own agricultural programmes to teach children healthy eating, environmental awareness and life skills. As well as continuing his educational work in New York, Stephen travels the world promoting the value of growing fresh produce, both in schools and the wider community.
The Green Bronx Machine was an accidental success. I wound up working at a very troubled high school in New York’s South Bronx district. It had a very low graduation rate and the bulk of my kids were special educational needs, English language learners, in foster care or homeless. It was dysfunctional to say the least. Someone sent me a box of daffodil bulbs one day and I hid them behind a radiator – I didn’t know what they were and figured they may cause problems in class. A while later, there was an incident in the room; we looked behind the radiator and there were all these flowers. The steam from the radiator forced the bulbs to grow.
That was when I realised that collectively and collaboratively we could grow something greater. We started taking over abandoned lots and doing landscape gardening, really just to beautify our neighbourhood. We took forlorn, unproductive spaces and turned…
[+] read more