Bronx students grow produce for surrounding nabes

Photo courtesy of Dewitt Clinton High School

For many, the Bronx is largely a food desert with many residents limiting their grocery selections to the goods sold at their local bodega. But a non-profit organization and local high school are looking to change that.

Non-profit organization Teens for Food Justice in partnership with DeWitt Clinton High School has students growing a plethora of fruits, vegetables and herbs for the school’s cafeteria and surrounding communities and in turn, students are learning the aspects of farming.

Clare Hyre discovered the Teens for Food Justice program after receiving a graduate degree from New York University in food studies.

“It stood out as a great opportunity and really a great way to address food insecurity,” Hyre said.

Hyre, for the past two and a half years, has been the program manager at Clinton and leads students through the entire planting, growing, transplanting and harvesting process.

She said being a part of the program has been rewarding in so many different ways. She said she can see the transformation of students who participate in the program.

Students who pass through the program see significant changes in their academics and confidence all while receiving hands-on work experience.

According to Hyre, of the 1,700 students at Clinton, around 100 students spend time in the greenhouse, whether they are involved in the program as a regular part of their curriculum, part of the workforce development program, or part of the after-school farming program.

She said Teens for Food Justice’s two main purposes are growing produce and providing a hands-on learning component for the young farmers.

One Clinton student, junior Miguel Graham, is an advocate for the Teens for Food Justice and also holds cooking demonstrations during the school’s fresh food box sales market.

Graham was introduced to the program as a freshman and has since been awarded ‘Advocate of the Year’ by Teens for Food Justice.

He addressed a crowd of 250 people at a gala event upon receiving the award.

“I’m so glad I was introduced to the program and started learning about healthy food,” Graham said. “The things we are actually growing are important to a healthy lifestyle.”

Graham said the area around his home and school are basically food deserts, filled with unhealthy fast food options and bodegas.

In response to the surrounding food desert, every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m., 14 pound boxes containing fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs are sold at DeWitt Clinton High School.

Every box contains from seven to nine items, in quantities large enough to feed two people for a week, according to the program’s brochure. The boxes are sold for $14 a piece.

Graham’s advice for everyone reading this was “Eat more vegetables.”