When COVID-19 forced New York City schools to close, Stephen Ritz found new ways to support the wellness of his students and the community.
Ritz is a South Bronx educator and founder of Green Bronx Machine, a nonprofit organization that strives to support healthier eating habits and communities through hands-on garden education.
And while COVID-19 forced him to physically distance from his students, he committed to serving them however he could.
“I’m doing engaging work with students in the morning then visiting them again at night,” Ritz tells Food Tank in reference to his virtual classes. “Then after school, after [Department of Education] hours…we are literally going to be doing Zoom cooking lessons with families.”
In May, Ritz says that he and his wife began dropping bags of groceries at his students’ houses so they could cook and share healthy meals with one another.
That same month, Green Bronx Machine also planted the largest organic soil farm in the Bronx. A month later volunteers harvested and packed the produce and delivered boxes of fruits and vegetables to families in the borough.
Ritz is not alone in his commitment to his students. Educators around the country are working to deliver nutritious food to young people while helping them develop their palates and awareness of the food system.
On this week’s episode of the podcast, Dani puts a spotlight on the teachers and educational organizations meeting students’ needs during COVID-19.
She speaks with Ritz, who explains the impact of the pandemic on his work. And fellow NYC educator and founder of Harlem Grown Tony Hillery discusses the importance of food and nutrition education and the barriers to food access in Harlem.
“There are a lot of things I can talk about that are problematic,” Ritz says about the pandemic. “But in a lot of ways, it is putting the unity back into community. And I think small, effective grassroots organizations like ours are really stepping up in enormous ways and building a foundation that will outlast this disease.”
You can listen to “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” on Apple Podcasts. While you’re listening, subscribe, rate, and review the show; it would mean the world to us to have your feedback.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture