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Green Bronx Machine Blends Science, Food, and Learning

Nothing brings people together like a good meal. But to eat without cooking is to consume without making — hacking your food is as maker-y as any craft.

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Imagine a society where we grow and prepare our own food daily. Imagine a portable, affordable farm-on-wheels, accompanied by a plug-and-play commercial kitchen that can roll from one school classroom to the next at lunchtime. This is what we do every day at Green Bronx Machine, which operates in the poorest congressional district in the country. We’re taking urban food production and distribution to a whole new level — growing food indoors 365 days a year, in the heart of the NYC housing projects in a 100-year-old building. And through maker innovation, we are growing community.

Even after harvesting 40,000 pounds of vegetables, our favorite crops are the organically grown citizens, graduates, members of the middle class, and kids who are growing and eating their way to spectacular school performance, all while using 90% less water and space. Healthy, nutritious food is a basic human right — our goal is to make it accessible for every community in the world.

What we’re most excited about are the changes Green Bronx Machine is affecting in our daily lives and in a community with limited means and access. Not just food access, but also increased academic engagement, improved health, and the celebration of art and science we’ve come to associate with sitting around the table every day for delicious, healthy meals.

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As populations grow and resources become sparser, the edible frontier — from farming and transportation to preparation and storage — presents the ultimate opportunity for makers to engineer solutions that benefit the whole world. Throw in the growing obesity epidemic and other global food- and nutrition-related crises, and you’ll start to realize that it’s imperative that we start innovating to help a world in challenged times — one farm, rooftop, basement, or backyard at a time.

The notion of a nonnegotiable item — food — aligned with something we all love to do — eat — somehow being made available and accessible in the least likely of places is indeed spectacular. This is evidence of what makers can do: Create a world of equity, opportunity, and abundance.

Learn more about the Green Bronx Machine. You can also visit the Green Bronx Machine at Maker Faire New York this weekend.

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Stephen Ritz

Stephen Ritz is a South Bronx educator / administrator who believes that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn, and earn in a better one. Moving generations of students into spheres of personal and academic successes which they had never imagined — while reclaiming and rebuilding the Bronx — Stephen’s extended student and community family have grown more than 40,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance.

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