Here is another post from the illustrious Lorna Sass, originally published at Lorna Sass at Large.
Remember when President Jimmy Carter visited the blighted south Bronx, with the result that images of burned-out houses and trash-stewn lots flashed across TV screens all over the nation? That visit and the movie, The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3 created an indelible image of the Bronx as a hopeless borough riddled with crime and despair.
Enter Steve Ritz, a teacher at Discovery High School (the tall fellow pictured in the center of the photo above) who figured out a way to help turn all that around by teaching his students to grow vegetables on walls. Yes, vegetables on walls.
On June 3 Ritz is orchestrating a huge “School Garden to School Cafe” event where the teens will be cooking and serving 450 healthy organic meals with vegetables grown by them from seeds on classroom walls and in containers. Well, that’s one mighty fine way to make sure that high quality vegetables get eaten right in the Bronx! No surprise that Ritz was recently awarded an EPA Environmental Quality Award.
How did Ritz manage to grow truckloads of organic vegetables indoors with virtually no equity but sweat equity? One thing he did was partner with a for-profit enterprise called Green Living™ Technologies, a pioneering developer of cutting edge urban agricultural systems. George Irwin, CEO of Green Living™ Technologies and a man with a big heart and a vision as huge as Ritz’s, contributed all of the building materials for the grow wall.
As Ritz points out, before they started growing their own on classroom walls, these teens had no easy access to fresh vegetables. And when kids grow their own vegetables, they want to eat them–so improved nutrition is a built-in bonus when teens become vegetable gardeners.
And there are other bonuses as well: Gardening not only improved class attendance from 40 % to 93%, but has also resulted in the startling fact that 100% of the gardening teens achieved passing grades on the state Regents exams in math and science.
On April 27th, at the magnificent Art Deco Bronx County Courthouse, I was privileged to witness Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz, Jr. present ten of Ritz’s students with graduation certificates for completing the Green Living™ Technologies training program in green wall and green roof maintenance and installation. The training was co-sponsored by Boston Cityscapes and held in Boston. According to Irwin, “These students are the youngest in America to obtain such living wage certifications by GLT in an emerging and green industry.” Read the rest of this entry »