I recently saw a Ted Talk entitled Green Bronx Machine-Growing Our Way Into A New Economy. The speaker was Stephen Ritz, a long-time teacher and resident of the Bronx. Having worked and lived in the neighbourhood for many years, he noticed that the kids he was teaching had an increase in the number and severity of problems they were facing, which include obesity, learning disabilities, homelessness, and poverty. In the hope of combating some of these issues, he took the initiative to start an urban garden at the school with the participation of his students. What he discovered was that the gardens were generating excitement amongst his students, so he decided to use this excitement to build green walls inside the school. The kids loved it and were getting the chance to learn how to plant, take care of, and harvest plants at school
The project grew and the students were asked to build green roofs for houses in the Hamptons. Then they started working on gardening, green walls and green roof projects in different parts of the Bronx, as well as sustainable and affordable housing for the community.
All of the food from the gardens is sold to fund the projects, or is donated to local food banks. Class attendance has skyrocketed from 40% to 93%. The kids are learning skills that they would likely not otherwise have the opportunity to learn living in New York City. The gardens provide enough food for the school cafeteria daily, thus pushing out some of the junk food that is being sold. Local food banks benefit from the influx of fresh and free local produce. The whole community benefits from having more gardens around them everyday. A story to be inspired by! And the project continues to grow! Check out their facebook page!
Now the question is, could something like this happen in Toronto? There’s lots of great stuff happening in this city too; who knows, maybe soon we’ll have the walls and roofs of our buildings growing greens!