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Green Bronx Machine

How can urban agriculture transform students, schools, health outcomes and communities in marginalised neighbourhoods?

Green Bronx Machine builds healthy, equitable and resilient communities through inspired education, local food systems, and 21st century workforce development. Students can change how they eat, live and learn to change outcomes and trajectories for their community and all generations. Green Bronx Machine serves more than 50,000 students daily!

HundrED 2021


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2021

HundrED 2019

HundrED 2018

Web presence






Target group
September 2017
We grow vegetables. Our vegetables grow students, schools, communities and opportunities.

About the innovation

What is the Green Bronx Machine?

The Bronx is the least healthy county in New York State, with the highest rates of childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Most children qualify for free school meals and their families are in receipt of food stamps. These serious levels of food insecurity contribute to decreased engagement in school. Moreover, there is a need for school improvement and teacher training. High levels of absence lead to low rates of high school graduation and chronic unemployment.

Green Bronx Machine is a radical organisation that evolved from an after-school programme to a full K12 model integrated into the core curriculum. By transforming an under-utilized school library into a Wellness Centre, creator Stephen Ritz teaches students about the art and science of growing vegetables indoors with low cost replicable technology.

The Wellness Centre is placed at the heart of a community school and all students have the opportunity to learn in the garden. As well as sessions before and after school, classes are timetabled to attend the Green Bronx Machine as part of their normal school day. Children who don’t always want to be taught change their attitudes because of the environment they’re in.

The Green Bronx Machine shows that healthy students help drive healthy schools. Students learn to grow, cook and eat vegetables at the indoor teaching garden, while getting outstanding daily instruction in core content areas. Guided by the Green Bronx Machine Classroom Curriculum, teachers have access to state-of-the-art lessons and resources that support growing and learning in class. Through this hands-on education, students have lost weight and reduced sugar intake, as well as developing resilience and a positive attitude to school.

As health has improved, so too has learning and school performance. Attendance has dramatically increased from 40% to 93%. The multi-award winning programme is aligned with maths, science and writing, and has seen pass rates on state science exams improve by 45%.

Not only has the Green Bronx Machine had an incredible impact on school performance, but it has also had a positive effect on the wider community. In a neighbourhood where fresh vegetables are expensive and hard to come by, students are taking home bags of groceries every week.

Green Bronx Machine has received several awards and acknowledgments, such as Best of Green School Award and the New York Strategic Alliance Award of Excellence.

During the COVID-19 Crisis, we have been directly supporting our students and their families with food and educational programming, including: 

1. We have provided weekly, door to door, grocery delivery for 26 patients of Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital who are recovering from cancer and are food insecure. Additionally, we provide weekly groceries, door to door, for 55 of the most vulnerable families in the Bronx across a 26 mile route including walk-up buildings. To date, we have completed 584 deliveries of over 14,000 pounds of reclaimed and captured food. 

2. Supported the sourcing, plating and delivery of 2,200 meals daily in public housing.

3. Provided nightly tutorials to 25 of the most at-risk elementary school children via the internet and social media.

4. Provided daily interactive read alongs, storytime, and vocabulary building activities via the internet; complete with free manipulatives, free books, and free school supplies delivered to homes.

5. Provided instructional support and teacher development via internet and Zoom for teachers - FREE OF CHARGE - our lessons have touched up to 20,000 professionals and partners at a time.

6. PLANTING HOPE - GBM along with community volunteers and students planted the largest organic soil farm in the Bronx - ALL SOCIALLY DISTANT - with 100% of food grown going to support families and additionally, will be providing over 10,000 seedlings to NYCHA - public housing, Senior Centers, and local residents interested in growing food for consumption in high need communities. We continue to host our students and community at the farm in socially distant and responsible activities.

7. YOU CANNOT EAT A LAPTOP - We applaud the commitment to distance learning, but devices are not enough! Thus, we have started the first after school cooking program in NYC with children that delivers groceries and ingredients door to door on Tuesdays and then convenes online on Wednesdays afterschool via Zoom to cook ENSURING THAT EVERY CHILD AND EVERY FAMILY HAS ALL THE INGREDIENTS AND CAN PARTICIPATE FULLY! We have screens full of happy children and wholly engaged families. 

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Green Bronx Machine grows enough food in the classroom to feed a whole school all year long. The model is highly scalable. Food is non-negotiable - everybody has to eat! Several countries have started using the lesson plans or developing versions of the Green Bronx Machine. There are 10 mini-centres in Canada and Stephen Ritz is advising a school in Dubai on the creation of a Wellness Centre.


Green Bronx Machine: We Make Friends
WE GROW VEGETABLES... AND STUDENTS!One student at a time, one classroom at a time, one school at a time.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfVAPHuyAyk&t=15sStudent Film by Erica Garbarini
Green Bronx Machine: We Grow Healthy!
Thanks to all the parents who participated and gave testimonials of their experience with Green Bronx Machine: Maria Aponte, Diana Basilio, Valerie Echevarria, Carmen Marcano, Sammantha Riboul, and Mrs. Ibrahim. Together we can grow something greater!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2bvMtyibwM
We planted 5,000 seedlings in a day! This is a Farm-Raising in the Bronx
Green Bronx Machine's Food for Others GardenEvery year since 2004, we come together to plant our Food for Others Garden. Year after year, we expand bringing in new volunteers and community members. 100% of the food grown here goes to families in need, Part of the Solution, and supports workforce development.Every year we make new friends, like David of MDRT and Brian of the Tarpey Group. This day has become a rite of passage, and is 100% people powered with over 5000 seedlings to plant.Ansh has been coming since 2013 after he learned about organic farming in school. Today he is in the top 1% of his class, and hopes to attend Stanford.This farm will host our camp children all summer long. They will harvest food for seniors recovering from cancer in partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital.Viraj Puri, CEO of Gotham Greens, mentored Stephen in 2011. They have remained close - growing something greater! Graham from Burpee Seeds is a new friend. Ms. Phyllis has gardened in this community for over 40 years. Michaela has been planting here every year since 2004.This abandoned city street now produces 5000 pounds of food annually. This farm also grows people! Corey has worked with us since 2002. Today, he is a business owner! Brian Tarpey is a new friend with many helpers! Nadje has been with us since 2007. He's a union butcher and gourmet chef.Every bamboo stake represents 5 pounds of fresh, organic Bronx-grown food. That's lots of good food!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SoTfZ7cH38
Green Bronx Machine Delivers Food in the Bronx During COVID-19 Pandemic | CNN Go There
Green Bronx Machine responds to the COVID-19 crisis and tackles food insecurity on CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VV4l5aiPos&feature=emb_logo
Green Bronx Machine: We Grow Happy!
Green Bronx Machine: We Grow Happy!
Green Bronx Machine Cuts Ribbon on Wheelchair-Accessible Farm
Green Bronx Machine Cuts Ribbon on Wheelchair-Accessible Farm
Green Bronx Machine - The Power of a Plant
Green Bronx Machine: national health and wellness center at PS 55 | Stephen Ritz | TEDxManhattan

Implementation steps

Identify a school champion
Start with the basics - find a teacher or programme manager who wants to grow something great!

A great teacher is the backbone of this project. They will work with the school administration, set up and manage the physical space and, of course, teach! The champion should be ready to own the responsibility of setting up the Green Bronx Machine programme, take on new challenges and lead the way. A great way to inspire a champion is to have them read The Power Of A Plant and become familiar with the Green Bronx Machine website.

Secure support from school administration
Work out what support will be needed from school administration and devise a plan to secure that support.

Identify what support will be needed from school administration. This could include funding, space to run the program, additional teaching resources, collaboration with other teachers and classes, and advocacy at a school-wide level. Devise a plan to secure that support.

Build out the physical space
Find somewhere perfect for growing vegetables and set it all up.

Identify a physical space where a controlled environment for an indoor classroom garden can be set up. Depending on how much will be grown, this could be anywhere from a corner of a classroom to a whole room dedicated to growing vegetables. Tower Garden’s innovative products are easy to assemble, use, move, and maintain - they’re perfect for the classroom! Plus, they’re compact - a thirty inch by thirty inch space is all you'll need to grow over two dozen plants using 90% less water with no soil to worry about. Reach out to info@greenbronxmachine.org for a custom referral. There are plenty of alternative controlled environment gardens available, or one can be built from scratch. 

Get to work with the Green Bronx Machine Classroom Curriculum
The Classroom Curriculum contains nine weeks of instruction across all content and subject areas.

Email lizette@greenbronxmachine.org to purchase a lifetime site license to the Green Bronx Machine Classroom Curriculum. It contains nine weeks of instruction (aligned to International Baccalaureate, P21, Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core) across all content and subject areas. This one-of-a-kind curriculum will walk teachers and students through growing and maintaining a garden with aspects of science, technology, mathematics, language, collaborative work and team building. 

Analyse, record and share results
Keep track of how the garden is coming along and how the students are progressing.

Green Bronx Machine would love to see how the garden is coming along and how the students are progressing. Take pictures, film videos, share them with Green Bronx Machine on social media. 

Utilize a rubric to capture progress, such as academic performance, vegetable yield, meals prepared and lessons completed. Share the data with students from the Bronx and all over the world. 

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