Whatever you call him, Steve Ritz is an extraordinary example of how one person can make a difference.
Steve has two missions: The first is to get his Discovery High School students to grow and eat vegetables. The second is to ignite the Green Bronx Machine and get all of the borough residents to grow and eat healthy food. (Watch out for the website and meanwhile follow Green Bronx Machine on Facebook and Twitter.)
Ritz is fueled by the irony that although the Bronx is the distribution point for produce to all five boroughs, its residents have very little access to high quality, fresh vegetables.
“If my kids can’t buy good produce at the local supermarket, we’ll get them to grow it,” Steve Ritz decides. And grow they do! Hundreds of pounds of it a year. Where? On the classroom walls.
Given a boost by the largesse of Boston-based Green Living Technologies, the students began growing vegetables on vertical shelves packed with earth. I saw the result last Friday when I attended a farmer’s market at the school.
Students, teachers, parents, and neighbors of the school were all shopping: bins were loaded with collards, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, scallions, and onions–and everyone was filling up their bags and heading to the front of the classroom to pay.
Have you ever seen a chalk board in front of a classroom listing vegetables and their prices? The sight gave me goosebumps. Can you imagine holding a weekly farmer’s market in classrooms all over the country?
The Discovery High School farmer’s market was a fantastic success. Here’s an e-mail I got from Steve Ritz a few days after the event: “We were very profitable, had over 500 visitors and folks from across NYC and NJ including State Senator Rivera and several other elected officials! Had we been able to have an EBT machine – we would have sold even more – a rallying cry for many in the food justice / food equity circles including Daniel Bowman Simon.
All the kids went home with bags of produce and after school we went to a local soup kitchen to donate the rest. All the edible plants and seedlings also went to local high-need communities and gardens and the Green Bronx Machine helped plant thru the weekend.
…Watch the ABC TV Special on June 18, 7 PM – Above and Beyond – which features our program and of course, I hope you can join us in Manhattan on June 22; 6-9 PM at Cafe Iguana for the formal launch of Green Bronx Machine.”
Big Green Bronx Hugs,
In case you aren’t already convinced that there’s a Pied Piper in the Bronx, here’s Steve telling us about his passion for greening the Bronx and providing math skills, community, and career alternatives for Bronx youths at the same time:
Now listen to one of Steve’s students, Netali Soriano, telling us how much he loves growing vegetables and how tomatoes and avocados have become a personal favorites. Take note of his Green Bronx Machine T-shirt!