Students at Denver’s Academy of Urban Learning (AUL) High School harvested their first crop of fresh greens and vegetables from an indoor tower garden they’ve been tending since earlier this semester.
The Quest Diagnostics Foundation, as part of the Quest for Health Equity (Q4HE) initiative, is providing a grant to Green Bronx Machine to support the expansion of its school program, “Cultivating Health Equity". Q4HE is a multi-year initiative of Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX) and the Quest Diagnostics Foundation focused on providing a combination of donated testing services, education programs, partnerships, and funding to support initiatives to close the gap in healthcare disparities in underserved communities.
The students’ teacher, Jorge Resendez, and Stephen Ritz, founder of the internationally acclaimed Green Bronx Machine program, were on hand to witness the pride students exuded as they showed off their nutritious, fresh, and delicious produce, along with lessons they learned about healthy living, science, food access and food insecurity.
Ritz, an educator born and raised in the Bronx, has taken his award winning “Tower to Table” hands-on program to classrooms in underserved communities around the world, helping students (like those at Denver’s AUL High School), engage in STEM-based learning while taking control of their health and wellness. With support from Quest for Health Equity, Green Bronx Machine will reach underserved students in 30 schools in Colorado, Ohio, and New York.
Melvin Johnson, Quest Diagnostics sales director for the Great Midwest, also attended the event on Quest’s behalf. “Upon entering the classroom, I was blown away by how engaged the students were. Their questions to Stephen were flowing and their interest was genuine and strong. It was amazing to see!” said Johnson. “I firmly believe that the Green Bronx Machine Program has positively impacted these students’ lives, along with their families and communities.”
Chris Woodburn, Denver School District’s Director of Sustainability, also participated in the event, and in an interview with Ritz, shared his excitement for what this program is doing for these students. “The Academy of Urban Learning is a very unique school, and these are students who have probably been asked to leave other schools or who would never be successful in other schools,” said Woodburn. “Today, these students are actively interested in social justice, combatting food deserts, and talking about problems like systemic racism in a way that other schools are not, because it’s a reality for them – they are living it, they see it, and they witness it on their walk home. These gardens have been a blessing for them. It’s a project that brings them together and that’s tangible. It’s something they can literally harvest, bring home, and share with their family.”
As Quest continues to work with Green Bronx Machine, the Denver School district, and schools in Ohio and New York City, Ritz expressed his gratitude. “The superintendent (of the Denver School District) took a chance, and we are knocking it out of the park. With Quest’s support, we are making epic things happen for these students and their communities.”
Learn more about Q4HE’s work with Green Bronx Machine, here.