A hydroponic farm at a Bronx school is New York City’s biggest student-built, indoor, vertical hydroponic farm.
DeWitt Clinton High School campus students teamed up with Teens for Food Justice (TFFJ) to build an indoor, vertical hydroponic farm in an unused third-floor lab in the school building.
Students will grow more than 25,000 lbs of produce annually to feed their entire school and its 1,300 students daily and the local community on an ongoing basis, while mastering key STEM concepts and skills needed in a green workforce economy.
TFFJ works to ensure universal equitable access to healthy, fresh, affordable food. The organisation train youth in 21st century hydroponic urban agricultural farming techniques, entrepreneurship, and health/nutrition education and advocacy, empowering them as change agents who can lead themselves and their own food insecure communities towards healthier futures.
DeWitt Clinton High School is located in one of the most food insecure communities in NYC. Around 125 students are involved in harvesting food grown in the 1,300 sq/ft high-capacity indoor hydroponic farm, which opened last year. They also lead a distribution programme that supplies the school cafeteria on a daily basis. Produce is also distributed free and sold affordably within the local community in collaboration with other school-based partners.
Teens for Food Justice say: “Through high-tech indoor farming, our students will be building a more sustainable future: reducing water consumption to 0.25 gallons per head of lettuce compared to over 4 gallons per head when using traditional agricultural methods, and completely avoiding the use of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides.
“They’re also cutting food miles by growing and distributing their own produce, reducing the amount of produce transported to the school cafeteria and building a hyper-local foodscape that serves the community.”
Latin pop star Gloria Estefan visited the hydroponic farm at DeWitt Clinton High School last year. The singer is working with TFFJ to bring the programme to public schools in her hometown of Miami. Like most of the Bronx, large parts of Miami are also considered food deserts, with limited access to fresh food that is both affordable and nutritious.
Gloria Estefan said: “I can envision this growing. I can only imagine how great it would be if all our public schools had some kind of [urban farming programme. The fact that the climate is changing so quickly. We don’t know how it’s going to affect our food supplies in the future.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea