Whole Kids Foundation works to amplify efforts that directly connect kids with the roots of their food, spark their curiosity and encourage healthier food choices. Our partner Green Bronx Machine (GBM) does that and more!
Housed in South Bronx’s Community School 55, the nonprofit is rooted in the belief that healthy students help drive healthy schools, and healthy schools become the heart of a healthy community. This vision resonates with other educators, and GBM has become one of the U.S.’s leading organizations inspiring children to grow vegetables and eat healthier while also giving them pathways for success in and out of the classroom.
We have had the pleasure of knowing GBM founder’s Stephen Ritz for a decade and are excited (but not surprised) to see that his efforts to build a healthy, equitable and resilient community through inspired education, the local food system and career exploration has grown from one school in the South Bronx to more than 500 classrooms around the globe.
Stephen is an educator and former principal with more than two decades in education. He has spent most of his professional life helping move students into spheres of academic and personal successes they may have never imagined possible.
He designed an immersive curriculum that aligns the art and science of growing vegetables with learning goals in science, math, literacy and more. The lessons are memorable, meaningful experiences that put students in the role of problem solvers. Ultimately, this project-based learning approach not only empowers students for personal success but also becomes an entry point for community and global citizenship.
Stephen and his students have grown more than 100,000 pounds of vegetables in the South Bronx, and, in the process, he moved school attendance at CS 55 from 40 percent to 93 percent daily before the pandemic and helped create thousands of youth jobs in the Bronx.
By transforming an empty library on the fourth floor of a 110-year old Bronx school building in the poorest congressional district in the U.S. into a thriving edible classroom, Stephen and the team at GBM have changed the definition of what is possible — even during a pandemic.
Learn more by checking out the Emmy Award-winning episode of “Growing a Greener World” on PBS, which spotlights GBM. Meet Stephen, take a tour of CS 55’s classroom gardens and cooking program, and get a glimpse of how this one-of-a-kind learning environment is transforming children’s lives. Then, read on to learn about Stephen’s reflections on 2020, GBM’s partnership with Whole Kids Foundation, and his call to action.