Interview with Stephen Ritz, CEO, Green Bronx Machine

by Cameron St. Germain

Stephen Ritz, CEO, Green Bronx Machine

Stephen Ritz is an educator in the South Bronx and the founder of the Green Bronx Machine. The self-proclaimed CEO, or Chief Eternal Optimist, of the Bronx, he is a tireless advocate for healthy eating in schools and underserved communities. By growing gardens in schools in the South Bronx, Stephen works to create healthy students, communities, and cities.

Where you grew up: Bronx, NY

Where you live now: Bronx, NY

Background and education: I have an undergraduate degree from SUNY, two graduate degrees – one in Special Education and the other in Administration. What I am most proud of – from an education standpoint – is that our academic curriculum, aligned to growing food in classrooms is being used by SUNY to train teachers in elementary education and create a career pathway for college students, has impacted over 20,000 students in one year in Canada and will be rolled out in 2018 in Chicago Public Schools.

Food policy/food as medicine hero: Will Allen / Ceasar Chavez

One word to describe our food system: Repairable

One word to describe our healthcare system: Reactive

Your favorite food: Anything I grow ( or prepare ) with students – partial to heirloom tomatoes – love soups, broths, consummes – warm nourishing liquids!

Your breakfast this morning: One slice of locally baked whole wheat bread, with hummus and three slices of locally grown tomato

Your last meal on earth: Anything with my family; ideally grown and / or produced in the Bronx

Must-have healing food/ingredient:  pineapple

Food policy, health, food as medicine book, website(s) social media/blog must-follow/read: So many great sites and books, is hard to nail down one – I tried to highlight as many as possible in my book: The Power Of A Plant. Favorite book of all time – Americans Who Tell The Truth by Robert Shetterly – the ultimate MUST READ! I am forever grateful to the NYC Food Policy list!

Your elevator pitch for food as medicine? Input equals output; you can’t run a Ferrari on vinegar – Children will never be well read unless they are well fed!  

Which widespread nutritional misconceptions worry you the most? It concerns me that we continue to blame victims for the problems we face in society.

What do you see as the next step for food as medicine?  We must bring happy back and stop living in trauma / defense mode!

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