Green Bronx Machine Founder Steve Ritz on His Award-Winning Video

Steve Ritz at TEDxManhattan 2014.

Steve Ritz at TEDxManhattan 2014.

Like thousands of others, filmmaker Brendan van Meter first encountered Stephen Ritz at the 2012 TEDxManhattan conference. Stephen, the founder of Green Bronx Machine, gave a talk introducing viewers to his organization, which uses farming to get high school students in the Bronx more engaged in school, while also teaching them about healthy eating and growing enough food to feed not just the kids but the surrounding community. The organization proves that, as Stephen says, “It is easier to raise healthy children than fix broken men.” His TEDxManhattan talk, filmed by Brendan in his role as TEDxManhattan’s Director of Video Production, has been watched more than 100,000 times online.

Brendan, President of Beaconhouse Media, and Stephen have since collaborated on a short video about Green Bronx Machine that won the People’s Choice Award in the 2014 Real Food Media Contest, as well as being named first runner-up. In the video, Stephen’s students talk about the impact of Green Bronx Machine on their lives. In the words of one, “This program changed the way I thought about going to school because I had actually something to look forward to.” Stephen and Brendan discuss the video in a recent interview on the Real Food Media Contest website.

Stephen also gave an update on his work at TEDxManhattan 2014, where he exhibited the tower gardens used by Green Bronx Machine, which allow produce to be easily grown indoors.

Watch Brendan & Stephen’s award-winning video to learn more about this “new Bronx story.” You can get more information, and learn how to get involved, at For more about Beaconhouse Media, see

TEDxManhattan Speaker Profile: Saru Jayaraman, ROC United

rsz_saruhighresWe’re introducing the 2014 TEDxManhattan speakers through a series of Q&A’s on the Ecocentric blog.  Today, we hear from Saru Jayaraman, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United).

TEDxManhattan Speaker Profile: Lance Price

LBP_Smile_smaller_1We’re introducing the 2014 TEDxManhattan speakers through a series of Q&A’s on the Ecocentric blog.  Today, meet Lance Price, Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health.

TEDxManhattan Speaker Profile: Alison Cayne

AliSchneider-HavensKitchenWe’re introducing the 2014 TEDxManhattan speakers through a series of Q&A’s on the Ecocentric blog. Meet Alison Cayne, Founder of Haven’s Kitchen, an NYC cooking school and specialty food shop.

TEDxManhattan Speaker Profile: Myra Goodman

myra1We’re introducing the 2014 TEDxManhattan speakers through a series of Q&A’s on the Ecocentric blog.  Meet Myra Goodman, co-founder of Earthbound Farm and author of the soon-to-be-released cookbook, Straight from the Earth – Irresistible Vegan Recipes for Everyone.

Limited No. of TEDxManhattan Scholarships Available

TEDxManhattan is pleased to offer a limited number of scholarships to the March 1, 2014, event in New York City. These tickets are for people working on the ground in sustainable food and farming, food justice and other food-related areas who otherwise could not afford to attend the event. Learn more, including how to apply.

TEDxManhattan Speaker Profile: Clint Smith

Clint SmithWe’re introducing the 2014 TEDxManhattan speakers through a series of Q&A’s on the Ecocentric blog.  Meet Clint Smith, an English teacher at Parkdale High School in Prince George’s County, MD.  Clint is also an Individual World Poetry Slam finalist and was a member of Washington D.C.’s 2012 & 2013 National Slam Poetry Teams.

TEDxManhattan Speaker Update: Bill Yosses

We’ve been checking in with former TEDxManhattan speakers to get an update on their work.  Below, we hear from 2013 speaker Bill Yosses, Executive Pastry Chef at The White House.  See Bill’s talk here.

yossesWhat have been the most exciting developments in your work since TEDxManhattan?
The best part has been the connections I have made with people who have seen the talk and contacted me.   David Binkle of the Los Angeles Unified School System for one. He is the Food Director and has done a great job of changing the school lunch program there, it is really a model for the country. [Note: David will speak at TEDxManhattan 2014.]  Also Liz Williams of the Southern Food and Beverage Institute held a Farm to Table symposium in New Orleans and they are doing great things in Louisiana.

Where can we learn more about your work going forward?

The websites for,,

What impact did TEDxManhattan have on your work?
I was amazed at the attendance and the reach of the talks.  They have a huge and influential audience.

TEDxManhattan Speaker Update: Anna Lappe

We’ve been checking in with former TEDxManhattan speaAnna Lappekers to get an update on their work.  Below, Anna Lappé, founding principal of the Small Planet Institute and Project Director at Food Mythbusters, talks about her ongoing efforts to combat food marketing to kids.  You can see Anna’s 2013 talk here.

What have been the most exciting developments in your work since TEDxManhattan?
[We've launched] our next mythbusting movie based on the themes of my TEDxManhattan talk. People can see the full movie and learn how to get involved.

What are your biggest plans for the 2nd half of 2013?
We’re launching a big sustainable food movie contest in October 2013. Anyone can participate and the movies will be judged by an A-list crew–including Michael Pollan, Padma Lakshmi, and Robby Kenner.

Where can we learn more about your work going forward?
People can sign up for our newsletter at to get the latest info on our projects. Or connect with me on Twitter @annalappe.

What impact did TEDxManhattan have on your work?
I’ve heard from people all around the world who’ve seen my TEDxManhattan talk. I think the message resonated with so many moms and dads who had a gut sense that something was wrong but who hadn’t understood the extent of marketing before. It’s been amazing and so gratifying. People are getting fired up to take action to fight back against unfettered marketing of junk food and soda to kids.

TEDxManhattan Speaker Profile: Michael Rozyne

As TEDxManhattaMichaelRozynen approaches, we’ve asked this year’s speakers to introduce themselves by answering a few questions.  Today we feature Michael Rozyne, Executive Director of Red Tomato, which connects farmers and consumers through marketing, trade, and education, and through a passionate belief that a family-farm, locally-based, ecological, fair trade food system is the way to a better tomato.

1) What’s the topic you’ll be speaking about?
The current food system isn’t built for local, no matter how much consumers demand it.  Why not?  Logistics!

 2) Why is this important?
Without the right logistics, our region’s best produce won’t make it to markets where people shop. It won’t be competitive enough. This explains why millions of Northeasterners can’t find or afford a juicy, locally-grown tomato, even at peak season. And it means that a substantial portion of the people wanting locally-grown fruits and vegetables will be unsatisfied, if not frustrated, and will not, collectively, turn into the economic force they might to strengthen farms and cause new ones to be born.

3) Are there other projects you’re also passionate about right now – either yours or someone else’s?
Yes. It’s a subject we refer to at Red Tomato as The Truth of the Middle conversation. I’m paying a lot of attention these days to the extreme language and logic that characterizes the national talk about food, farms, and the environment. For example, the conversations about honey bees and colony collapse disorder, or the health dangers of consuming GMO foods—take place often at the all bad, all good level. Both ends of the discussion use science as their proof, but not always responsibly. And the internet doesn’t help truth or reason emerge—it provides a comfortable skrim for people to hide behind, or stay in a circular conversation only with people who agree with them. I think these difficult conversations are best had eyeball to eyeball. It’s made me very curious about the science of how we learn, listen (if at all), make up our minds, and how brains work. I especially enjoyed reading The Righteous Mind by TED talkster Jonathan Haidt. It’s impacting how I think about communicating, and listening, and collaborating.

4) Which other 2014 TEDxManhattan speakers are you excited about hearing?
Nikki Henderson of Peoples Grocery and Virginia Clarke of SAFSF are colleagues of Red Tomato, and I admire their work. Myra Goodman started and runs a company and brand I’ve watched for many years—I look forward to the Earthbound story. Lance Price’s subject—antibiotic resistance– is of great interest to me. I bet Clint Smith and Martha Redbone will be inspiring too. The whole list looks mighty inspiring!

5) Where can more information about your project be found?
Our website is full of info, profiles and video about our eco programs and the farmers we work with; Facebook and Twitter have all the latest, including blog posts from our staff.  We’ve been featured in a number of case studies in the past couple of years, including Harvard Business School; USDA Know Your Farmer Know Your Food; and University of Wisconsin.  You can find links to those and more on our website Resources page. In her book Raising Dough, [2011 TEDxManhattan speaker] Elizabeth U talks about our unique non-profit/market-based hybrid model.