LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Stephen Ritz

Position: Executive Director
School: National Health/Wellness/Learning Center at CS 55
School District: New York City Department of Education #9
City, State: Bronx, NY

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Music that Describes Stephen

Stephen Ritz was nominated by his friend, Brian Copes.

"COVID-19 has changed our world and has thrust educators to the front line of community health and wellbeing," Copes said. "Today, education is much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. It's now focused on meeting the basic needs of students and the community. Often, the poor communities are hit the hardest with rampant unemployment, causing many great stresses on the students and families. Many families do not have the means to provide food. Many students are now more focused on where they may acquire their next meal, putting education on the side burner.

Mr. Ritz is making a LifeChanging difference for thousands of students and families in this situation. He's an educator with the title “Executive Director of the National Health, Wellness and Learning Center” at Community School 55, Bronx, NY. He is also the founder of the nonprofit Green Bronx Machine. Mr. Ritz truly cares for the whole child. He firmly believes a well-fed child will learn exponentially more than a child who is hungry. This past year, he and the Green Bronx Machine:

  • Delivered more than 100,000 pounds of food.
  • Rescued more than 10,000 pounds of food
  • Helped feed 2,300 people
  • Grew more than 5,000 pounds of local Bronx food
  • Brought students on socially-distant field trips
  • Held online cooking classes
  • Built three food pantries
  • Created local farm stands
  • Hosted more than 200 digital lessons
  • Trained hundreds of teachers
  • Delivered food weekly to 30 cancer patients and 55 vulnerable families in the community

Mr. Ritz is a South Bronx educator who believes that students should not have to leave their community to live, learn, and earn in a better one. An internationally acclaimed award-winning educator, he's the author of the best-selling book, The Power Of A Plant. Known as “America’s Favorite Teacher,” Mr. Ritz is responsible for creating the first edible classroom in the world, which he has evolved into the National Health, Wellness and Learning Center. He and his students have grown more than 100,000 pounds of vegetables in the South Bronx, and in the process, Mr. Ritz has moved school attendance from 40% to 93% daily. His work as also helped provide 2,200 youth jobs in the Bronx.

Mr. Ritz was a Top Ten Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, named Global Humanitarian, Food Tank Hero, TEDx Prize Winner and a Global Food Educator, and has presented at the Obama White House three times. A replica of his classroom was installed in the US Botanic Gardens in Washington, DC. His curriculum is being used in hundreds of schools across the United States, and internationally from Colombia to Dubai, from Canada to Cairo, to Doha, and beyond.

To date, Mr. Ritz work has been featured by Forbes, Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, TNT, Disney, Discovery TV, NPR, Teach Middle East, The Gulf National, and countless others. His TED Talk boasts more than 1 million views, ranks in the Top 10 Food/Education TED Talks of all time, and is used for teacher training/workforce development globally. Mr. Ritz was featured in the film adaptation of Michael Pollan’s best-selling book, In Defense of Food, and he has appeared on ABC’s The Chew, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Food for Thought, NPR’s 50 Great Teachers, All Things Considered, and American Graduate. The State University of New York uses his curriculum to train teachers in all content areas. His recent appearance on PBS’ Growing A Greener World (Episode 808) won an Emmy Award, and he and his students were recently featured on the covers of TIME for KIDS and Scholastic Magazine.

Mr. Ritz splits his time between his home in the Bronx and his residence in The Sustainable City in Dubai, UAE, where he serves as Director of Health, Wellness and Innovation for Esol Education at Fairgreen International School. Currently, he is working with Anthem Blue Cross / Blue Shield to bring Green Bronx Machine programming to 22 American cities across 19 states.

Comments (37)

Kenda Templeton Posted over a year ago

What an outstanding educator, mentor and friend! Congratulations, you deserve all the accolades that come your way! ??????

Steve Revington Posted over a year ago

Stephen Ritz is a gift! Congratulations Stephen on this great recognition.

Steve Revington Posted over a year ago

Stephen Ritz is a premium life changer! He is a doer, a visionary, a role model and a real-life “action figure”. Stephen not only provides the valuable teaching tools for people to improve their dispositions, he creates the rich contexts that champions positive change. His holistic impact is not only school-wide, it significantly extends beyond the Bronx community, considerably influencing the national and international psyche. Whether it’s a school enterprise, a community initiative, a regional ambition or global project, Stephen Ritz affects positive change. Stephen Ritz is a game changer and more importantly, a life changer!

Sue Posted over a year ago

Stephen is truly inspirational to one and all with a pure heart. His empathy and sincerity improves all the lives who he comes into contact with. May he continue to work his magic for many years. The world is a better place for having Stephen in it.

Christeen Edward Posted over a year ago

I met Mr. Ritz about 3 years ago. He truly inspired my students and I by introducing the Green Bronx Machine and the healthy habits. He’s a true role model who always wants to give and makes change happen!!!

Saundra Guest Posted over a year ago

I remember hearing Stephen Ritz share in a talk in Texas that his goal was to create SOLUTIONARIES. In following his work, I have seen him create SOLUTIONARIES of adults, not just children. When you meet Stephen in person, you feel his energy and commitment to his mission and you want to be involved. He is the Pied Piper of making the world a healthier place and changing lives. When he speaks, we follow.

Thelma Headley Posted over a year ago

Stephen Ritz work is great,i admire his work especially with the children,he is a great inspiration to all and he is really worthy of this award,keep up the good work and God bless??

Mary Smith Posted over a year ago

He continually changes the lives of everyone who comes in contact with him.

Sandy Ritz Posted over a year ago

Stephen has donated his time, energy, passion, and love long before the Green Bronx Machine was even conceived. He and GBM are constantly evolving as the needs of the community and the world change. He is an inspiration and light to so many.

Franchesca monzon Posted over a year ago

Truly a pleasure to have met you. Love home you encouraged healthy habits and brought us so much knowledge. Thank you for all you've done for the community.

Cynthia barker Posted over a year ago

No person deserves it more!! Such an inspiration!!

Tala Wood-Stephens Posted over a year ago

Steven is the real deal and one of the best human beings that I know. He is an inspiration for kids and adults to always give from your heart and to help others. Love him!

Lourdes Lindenauer Posted over a year ago

Stephen Ritz is a game changer. He doesn’t wait for things to change. He makes change happen.

Amy Poland Posted over a year ago

Stephen’s contagious energy and passionate dedication towards, bringing nutrition to students and families around the world, motivates me to work on being a better human. Keep rocking life Stephen Ritz!!???

Pam Armitage Posted over a year ago

Steven is such an inspiration and has such passion for what he does. I had the honor of meeting him last summer in Indiana at a red carpet event for a movie he produced.

Lucas Posted over a year ago

A real valuable and committed Member of our communities, someone who actually cares! Deserves to be recognized!

Mo Cunningham Posted over a year ago

I AM HONORED to call the Man the Myth The Legend... Stephen Ritz ..My Friend! Never before have I met someone who is So Dedicated to Make a Positive Impact in Our World! He...Is Living out the Purpose God created us all with....What are You doing with Your Purpose? Support Stephen Ritz and Be the Change we Need to Have in our World ??

Nicole Sinclair Posted over a year ago

Inspiration to so many people.

Joanna mangan Posted over a year ago

Stephen is compassionate, uplifting,hard working, pull up your sleeves gentleman who is inspired to help all. He is the real deal.Love his energy . Stephen is a life changer of every year.

Maud Posted over a year ago

Thanks to you my life changed, and we understood all the Main importante of education, food and well development

Hope Stevens Posted over a year ago

Steven Ritz has changed the lives of millions of people by teaching the health benefits of healthy eating!! A great and dedicated teacher!!!

Victor Wanga Posted over a year ago

Mr. Ritz work is beyond the continent, his work has been embraced in Africa too, a great teacher is spearheading sustainable provision of food using modern technology keep it up, we are emulating your good work, Kudos!

Tiffany Posted over a year ago

So deserved! He is an inspiration to many! He doesn't discriminate and makes learning fun and entertaining! Stephen Ritz for President!!

Douglas Bell Posted over a year ago

Mr. Ritz is one of the most inspiring educators I’ve come across in my 29 years in the profession. His genuine enthusiasm for seeing kids enjoy learning is contagious and he is a true representation of someone with a vision and commitment to serving those around him, especially the under-served.

Carol K Posted over a year ago

I nominate Stephen because of the hard work he does to inspire students to be the best they can be. He's a positive passionate educator who supports his community and is loved and adored by all.

Jenny Collins Posted over a year ago

I have never met a more positive inspiration than that which Stephen represents and embodies. Not only does his whole being revolve around selfless acts wherein he puts the needs of others above his own, he also has this amazing calming effect on all around him. There is no problem which together he can’t think of the way to overcome and no information or knowledge that he won’t share - to say I am proud to call him my friend is an understatement!

Bram van der Weij Posted over a year ago

Stephen really motivates others to make our lives better and live of others. His words inspire me, even 4 years after I met him.

Lee Haddad Posted over a year ago

Stephen is an inspiration to so many. Congratulations and keep up the great work!

KENDA TEMPLETON Posted over a year ago

What a wonderful human being and mentor. The world is a better place because of Stephen.

Mariana Posted over a year ago

Well deserved

Javier Lopez Posted over a year ago

Blessed to be part of his program. My students are more excited to learn about fruits and vegetables because Mr. Ritz gives them the opportunity to do it hands on

Matthias Kern Posted over a year ago

Stephen Ritz is an inspiration and a force to make life better for thousands of young people as well as adults. I wish the world had more humans like him. We would live in a better world.

Susan Fry Posted over a year ago

Stephen has changed my life , the life of my co-workers and most especially then at risk Foster Youth we work with. Stephen has brought us passion, purpose and hope. It is an honor to know him and to be inspired by him.

Tanya Posted over a year ago

Stephen is an inspiration to who all know him and his work! He’s a true life changer.

Fabian Wander Posted over a year ago

Mr. Ritz has done so much for The Bronx by empowering kids and their families in taking control over their Health outcomes. He is an excellent and dynamic educator that has helped some many people learn to live healthier lives. I highly recommend Mr. Ritz as the life changer of the year recognition.

Michela Posted over a year ago

He’s a super man. What he does for the community is extremely important and precious. He has the natural gift of giving and sharing with true passion. He’s real and deserves to be recognized for what it does! Thanks for all that you do Mr. Ritz!

Brian Copes Posted over a year ago

Stephen is an inspiration to me, I am amazed at his love and commitment level to his students and community. I am so proud to call him my friend.