The 2nd Annual Anthem Awards | Finalists Announced January 2023

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Winner Stories

Green Bronx Machine on How to Promote Healthy Living

We spoke with Anthem winner Green Bronx Machine to learn about how they work on tackling food insecurity and on increasing access to healthy living resources for underserved communities across the world. 

Green Bronx Machine is one of the most impactful organizations working in the space where sustainability and social justice intersect. We spoke with them to find out how they managed to win six Anthem Awards and how they fight for communities across the globe–all from a small classroom inside public housing in the Bronx. 

 

Who is Green Bronx Machine?

Founded in 2011, they create STEAM/STEM learning experiences, and health, wellness, and culinary programs, alongside garden installations. Their mission is to address food insecurity, the lack of effective workforce development, and the inaccessibility of resources that promote healthy living in underserved communities. 

Within just 11 years after its inception, Green Bronx Machine was placed among the Top 10 Health And Wellness Programs in the nation and the Top 100 Education Innovations. Through their garden installation initiative, they built the first wheelchair-accessible academic garden and training kitchen and launched the first youth foster-care commercial farm in a remote Appalachian town. 

They’ve partnered towards 2,200 living wage local jobs and with organizations like the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation and the New York Yankees. They’ve also established partnerships with educational institutions such as the State University of New York and the New York City Department of Education where their classroom curriculum is used to train teachers in all subject areas.  

“We’ve accomplished this through low-cost, scalable technologies, robust and accessible professional development, and an unwavering commitment to listen to and serve our local community,” they told us. 

Green Bronx Machine was started for exactly that: to create resources for marginalized communities in the Bronx under the belief that “people should not have to leave their communities to learn, earn, live, and play in a better one.” 

It’s only natural that their scope has increased to include a global community as their founding pillar is to provide access to natural resources to communities that historically have been kept from them. They now work across more than 675 schools around the world with a teacher satisfaction rate of 100%.

Communities like ours are not just under-resourced; they are over-extracted. After decades of watching organizations come and go from our community – the South Bronx – often profiting off our misery while changing little to nothing, my students and I realized there was no justice, just us. Simply put, we got tired of stepping over bodies… We are the people we are waiting for, and the best solutions are the ones that we own.

The Power of Food

One of their major projects is their garden installations. They use Tower Garden technology, which has been proven to be effective for classroom use, along with their Green Bronx Machine Classroom Curriculum and their Green Bronx Machine In-A-Box program, which is a “wholly-immersive academic garden experience” that contains a toolbox for growing and preparing nutritious meals in the classroom.  

“At Green Bronx Machine, we grow vegetables, our vegetables grow students, our students grow high-performing schools, and our schools grow resilient communities,” they said. “We are not an add-on; we are wholly built into the DNA of academic activities daily.” 

They are an organization that recognizes the power food has, not only in creating a community among people but also in teaching kids skills they can apply to their education, wellness, and overall life. 

Green Bronx Machine functions with the understanding that children have the ability to learn literacy, math, science, entrepreneurship, collaboration, and cooperation as they cultivate a garden and work together to cook nutritious meals. 

They said, “Our children go on to meaningful employment, college, and workforce training, become small business owners, and remain vital and thriving within their communities all while embracing paradigms and lifestyles that are respectful of each other and our planet.” 

Impact During a Global Pandemic 

The solutions they create have benefited communities from across the world, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. They noticed that the pandemic made rampant the already widespread issue of food insecurity and swiftly reorganized their resources to meet the needs of members of their community. 

“We quickly worked with our network of partners and food providers to ensure that our most vulnerable and food-insecure community members were well-fed throughout the pandemic,” they told us. 

And they didn’t stop at working to provide access to food–they also distributed schoolwork supplies in their makeshift volunteer supermarket site. They compiled downloadable educational and professional development resources for free on their website for students, teachers, and families. 

They hosted numerous group video calls where they invited chefs and experts that taught students how to cook nutritious meals in their own homes. This transformed into an educational TV series in partnership with PBS called “Let’s Learn with Mister Ritz” where they shared their resources with students and teachers to ensure they could do it from home. This made them TMZ’s 2021 COVID-19 Food Hero. They were also named The Bronx COVID-19 Food Hero in 2021 and the NYC Food Policy Changemaker in 2020 by the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center. And their recognition as an organization doesn’t stop there. 

“Our learned and lived experience resulted in an invitation to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives on ending hunger in America,” they told us. “And this year, Green Bronx Machine’s founder, Stephen Ritz, was asked to join NYC Mayor Eric Adam’s Food Transition Team.” 

What COVID Taught Them

When COVID-19 came to shove, Green Bronx Machine shoved back by using its resources to build solid foundations for its own community. This quickness in response came from noticing that their community was relying on them to provide resources. 

It also came after realizing that the systems they were working to tackle were the exact ones putting pressure on local communities in the Bronx–the systems being racism, greed, and corruption, as they’ve described them. It taught them to be flexible in how they provide their services.

As they told us, “We have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic better able to serve our communities – both locally and across the nation – and we have proven that our programming is evergreen and crisis resilient.” 

Their story of how they became the leading organization they are now was chronicled in the book “The Power of a Plant: A Teacher’s Odyssey to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools,” written by Green Bronx Machine Founder and CEO Stephen Ritz. Their work is also presented in their TV show Tower to Table to Tummy. 

 

Learn about the Projects that got them six Anthem Awards! 

And watch their Call To Action Speech at the Inaugural Anthem Awards: 

And to have your work hailed alongside icons of the social impact sphere like Green Bronx Machine, make sure to enter the 2nd Annual Anthem Awards by the Extended Entry Deadline on October 28th! Click here to learn more about how to enter and our categories for this year. 

Patagonia – Don’t Buy This Jacket

Patagonia has put social impact at the core of their brand mission and values from the start, and their iconic Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign demonstrates how brands can use their platform to make an impact — or better yet, to help reduce our impact. This 2011 ad ran in the New York Times on Black Friday, making a lasting impression for its bold message addressing the issue of consumerism head on and asking readers to take the Common Threads Initiative pledge to reduce, repair, reuse, recycle, and reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.

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