Change Food’s Diane Hatz moderated a lively discussion with Stephen Ritz Tuesday evening at Union Square’s Project Farmhouse in celebration of the release of his autobiographical novel The Power of a Plant: A Teacher’s Odyssey to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools.
Ritz, a self-proclaimed “insurgent educator” in the South Bronx, regaled an attentive audience with details on his background and what led him to launch Green Bronx Machine, his innovative approach to nutrition education. “In my classroom, we can go from a box to a garden in 45 minutes,” Ritz explained.
Project Farmhouse served as the perfect venue for the launch, illuminating Ritz’s vision for the type of public sustainable community center he hopes his students will one day have in the Bronx. The space, which opened in Union Square in December 2016, boasts energy efficient lighting and bathrooms, as well as a kitchen and hydroponic wall garden identical in concept to those Ritz grows in his classroom.
Keeping in theme with the borough highlighted for the evening, a handful of Bronx-based organizations provided food and drink. Bronx Brewery’s selection of locally brewed beers was a guest favorite, while Oregon-based Mouton Noir provided a taste of the west coast with with their signature “O.P.P.” Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir wines.
Le Botaniste provided ample servings of their Tibetan Mama Rice Bowl, a coconut curry served over brown rice with vegetables and kimchi, and Le Pain Quotidien served an array of their famous tartines, including prosciutto, avocado on whole grain bread, and smashed pea toast. Founder Alain Coumont was among the NYC-based restaurateurs who dropped by to show their support for Ritz’s commendable work.
The evening wrapped up with a brief book signing, during which a spirited Ritz chatted with the attendees (including many family of his members!).
Upon exiting, guests received custom-made “Power of a Plant” totes full of treats from local organizations including fresh basil from Gotham Greens and a special “South Bronx blend” coffee from Uptown Roasters, as well as a variety of KIND bars (including crowd favorite flavor Dark Chocolate Almond Mint).
The Power of a Plant is currently a #1 best seller on Amazon and available for purchase in hardcover and Kindle versions.
For more on Stephen Ritz and his work, check out our recent interview!