In 2012, Mr. Ritz received non-profit certification for the program he came up with three years prior, which teaches students how to build green roofs and walls to hold produce and maintain the systems as the plants grow.
Stephen Ritz Bronx high school teacher received a decade ago a box of spring bulbs. “I didn’t know what to do with them, so I stuck them behind a radiator, and they got forced”—meaning they sprouted into bloom from the heat. That accidental sprout was the germ of an idea “The Green Bronx Machine” that has rocketed Ritz and his students into new lives of growing hundreds of thousands of pounds of fruit and vegetables, operating farmers’ markets infood deserts, learning science, improving their health, getting certified to build mobile urban farms and green roofs for A-list clients from Rockefeller Center to the Hamptons, earning a living wage, and transforming their neighborhood, all in the poorest congressional district in America.
He engaged the kids in his classroom to grow vegetables. They started coming in early and staying late. They took home healthy food like kale and tomatoes to their parents and grandparents. And this got entire families enthused about eating healthy. The seeds they planted became farms across the Bronx; rows of red, green and yellow vegetables that fed residents a huge dose of health—without food stamps.