Stephen Ritz is a public school teacher who genuinely wanted to do good. However, when he arrived in the schools of the South Bronx, it seemed that all odds were working against him.
He taught at a high school with only a 17% graduation rate, where 99% of the students qualified for free lunch because of their socio-economic status, and where 70% of the students who were designated as “learning disabled” didn’t have to be.
When Ritz looked around, he noticed that in neighborhoods with thousands of people there were hardly any supermarkets. There were only grocery stores with unhealthy options.
By chance — and only by chance — he stumbled upon one epic solution. A friend gave him a box of daffodils, which he stuffed behind a classroom radiator to keep them out of the students’ way.
When a kid discovered them, everything changed. Stephen saw the way his kids responded to nature.
Sometimes relating to students on a personal level is the only way to get through to them. This teacher inspired his students with a rap; Ritz inspired his students by bring nature to them.
Into the concrete streets of the inner city, Ritz brought fresh vegetables, fruits, and plants. He taught his students to garden.
Suddenly their lives were changed. Class attendance went from 43% to 93%, grades went up, students got living-wage jobs, and for once their bellies were full with healthy foods. The students ate everything they grew. One classroom became the organization Green Bronx Machine, and since then the students have produced 30,000 crops.
They’ve built gardens on roofs of schools and in classrooms. Ritz students have made New York City greener, safer, and more hopeful.
See their story below and SHARE if you think all children should have access to healthy foods and fresh gardens!