We heard from Ritz in November, just before he traveled to Wayne, West Virginia to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony introducing a first-of-its-kind commercial greenhouse and tower garden farm to be operated by foster care youth who are transitioning into adulthood. The local sponsoring organization Stepping Stones, Inc. chose Ritz's curriculum for indoor youth gardening as the core of their program.
“We are an organization that grows children, and our children grow vegetables, and our vegetables grow schools, and our schools grow communities, and our communities become resilient,” Ritz said. “We do it one student at a time, one classroom at a time, one greenhouse at a time and one community at a time.”
“I have developed a fully integrated core curriculum that teaches students how to grow, eat and love vegetables, while also learning about math, science and English in a fresh and engaging way,” he said. “Students who have participated in this program have experienced health improvements that lower the risk of childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease, while also increasing their performance in school.”
And that would be just a thin slice of the bigger story. In another recent interview with people who do., Ritz explains the explosive scalability of his Bronx model:
"From this humble little classroom we've grown to touching 50,000 students in 20 states in five countries daily. Within the next 18 months, we'll be touching over 500,000 students. We're being scaled by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, we're working with partners in the NHL and we're hearing from school districts and school systems across America. We're looking at our data, our results and our price point and efficacy. We have a curriculum that is being used to train teachers in all content areas and we continue to generate assets. So I've gone from being disruptive to delivering and now people want to get on board and that's very exciting!"
Ritz's personal heroes? In addition to his parents, teachers and colleagues, he names Michelle Obama first, then Robert Shetterly. We'll take that.