Stephen Ritz is widely known as “America’s Favorite Teacher.” After losing over 100 pounds and changing his life. Stephen created the first edible classroom in the world. He and his students have grown more than 100,000 pounds of vegetables in the South Bronx, and in the process, Stephen has moved school attendance from 40% to 93% daily, and helped to provide 2,200 youths with jobs in the Bronx. In our conversation, we discuss the many challenges faced by children growing up in the South Bronx, and his journey to provide health and hope to over 3 decades of children.
“Its easier to get a handgun in this community than it is to get a fresh head of lettuce” ~Stephen Ritz
- At one point Stephen was over 300 pounds.
- Food was a big part of Stephen’s identity.
- He realized that he was overweight while advocating for healthy food in his school system, so he started to eat healthier.
- A child can’t be well-read if they aren’t well-fed.
- The Bronx has one of the highest fast food growth rates in the nation.
- Stephen believes that food justice is racial justice. Access to healthy and fresh foods should be a basic human right.
- At one point, Stephen’s class of 17 troubled students, planted over 15,000 plant bulbs around the city. That was the beginning of their movement for urban remediation.
- At that point, he realized the importance of engaging kids.
- The Green Bronx Machine has partnered for 2200 living wage jobs.
- When you teach children about nature you teach them about nurture.
- They decided to grow food and were allowed to sell some of their produce in Whole Foods.
- Stephen’s students later won the National Indoor Gardening Championship.
- They built one of the largest commercial farms in the South Bronx and annexed it next to a culinary kitchen.
- The group discovered tower gardens and began to use them as an integral part of learning.
- During the pandemic, they delivered over 100,000 pounds of food to 2300 families.
- Children are disconnected from food. Connecting kids to what their food is and where it comes from, helps them become part of the ecosystem.
Stephen Ritz's Ted Talk: https://bit.ly/2VF9Yhn
The Power of A Plant: https://amzn.to/3ABFtHG
Stephen on Instagram: https://bit.ly/3fY1bxE
Stephen on Facebook: https://bit.ly/3jQVjHR
Green Bronx Machine Swag: https://bit.ly/3CDMjOJ