Green Bronx Machine on Urban Gardens to Transform Body and Soul

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Green Bronx Machine is dedicated to cultivating minds and harnessing hope through a school-based model using urban agriculture, which has demonstrated positive results on students’ health. The GBM initiative helps transform communities that are fragmented and marginalized into neighborhoods that are inclusive and thriving. 


NYXT recently spoke with Stephen Ritz, the organization’s founder, about GBM’s commitment to Black Lives Matter, how the group is adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, and how people can get involved with the work that they’re doing. Green Bronx Machine is located in the South Bronx and you can watch their videos at


How is the Green Bronx Machine embracing the Black Lives Matter movement? What experiences did you have when talking about racism with young GBM participants?


GBM has always embraced the BLM movement in all that we do, from our leadership and staff to our Board of Directors, down to the people capturing and telling our narrative - on both sides of the camera. We hire local, shop local, support local, feed local, grow local, and remain local - we are equity warriors dedicated to creating systemic change, policies, procedures, and opportunities that foster equity and justice - while serving and empowering marginalized communities across America. Our students are keenly aware of issues that transcend our nation - realize this, we are in the poorest Congressional District in America, in the least healthy county in all of New York State, in one of the most perpetually under-performing school districts in NYC - this pandemic has become perpetual and intergenerational. One need not look far to understand the larger realities of our nation as they continue to play out in our front yard, backyard, and immediate community. 


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What are some tangible ways that artists and educators could support and volunteer through GBM? 

We've always said your voice is your greatest contribution! Championing our impact, sharing our social, pointing folks our way is critical for us. Closer to home, we welcome mentors for the children, teaching workshops, product and in-kind donation, media opportunities, phone banking and we are looking to grow our Board of Directors. Days of service are always welcome at school and on the farm. There are multiple ways to get involved - call us, write us, and reach out!


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Stephen Ritz is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning educator, and author of the best-selling book, The Power Of A Plant. Known as America's favorite teacher, Stephen is responsible for creating the first edible classroom in the world. He and his students have grown more than 100,000 pounds of vegetables in the South Bronx, have been celebrated at the Obama White House three times, have been featured on the cover of TIME for KIDS and are the subject of a new, full-feature documentary, Generation Growth.


How has the coronavirus pandemic affected Green Bronx Machine and its community?


Our community has been the absolute epicenter of the pandemic. Four of the five highest infection rates per capita via zip code in NYC are here in the Bronx. Zip codes with the greatest food insecurity, most compromised and inconsistent access to healthy food, least access to devices and connectivity, highest % of essential workers are right here in the Bronx. During the black out, hurricanes, and summer storms, 1.2 million residents were affected most - right here! We have both children and seniors who have not left their homes for weeks at a time. School instruction, summer youth activities, arts, and recreational opportunities have suffered tremendously. Simply put, the death toll, overall health, economic, and emotional consequences here have been staggering!


How is the organization adapting its educational programs during the pandemic?


GBM has been incredibly quick and nimble in our responses - modeling exemplar programming that even captured the attention and was highlighted on CNN and News12 repeatedly. Specifically, we built additional farms, practiced socially responsible educational practices in the community, created weekly delivery services for seniors and most vulnerable families - complete with an educational component, held daily read-a-longs and online activities, debuted a Zoom Cooking program that dropped all ingredients necessary to participate at homes on Tuesdays and then convened on line on Wednesdays while managing to help distribute 2,300 meals per day and distribute over 100,000 pounds of fresh food. As we speak, we are working on community building and engagement programming that supports our in-school efforts and by design, allows for continuation in the event of lockdown and or school closure. We are building pantries that not only provide food, hygiene, and PPE supplies but also provide recipes, cooking, health, and self-care interventions. We welcome your support! 


Would you like to add anything additional?


For so many families in our community and beyond, Green Bronx Machine continues to be the light inside of our tunnel rather than an elusive light at the end. We believe we are the ones we are waiting for and while no one can do everything, everyone can do something! Our organization runs on people power, donations, and philanthropic support. Please consider us and help us grow something greater! You can purchase our merchandise and share our good will here! Share news of our upcoming documentary today!




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