Fordham Hosts Food Rich Summit 2016

By Caroline Berejka (FCRH ‘18) – Social Innovation Collaboratory Communications Team.

Earlier this month some of the brightest minds in New York City gathered together at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center to share their ideas and innovations concerning food poverty in the big apple. The day long event on April 14th was hosted by MakeImpactNYC, a “hybrid social enterprise generating innovation solutions for critical social challenges in New York City”, along with The Social Innovation Collaboratory at Fordham University.

Keynote speaker, Stephen Ritz, kicked off the event with a passionate speech about his organization the Green Bronx Machine. As a high school teacher in the Bronx county school system, Ritz saw the harmful effects of poverty on his students well being and ability to learn. Students in the Bronx are disproportionately affected with ADHD, early puberty, obesity and a host of other issues. Furthermore, the Bronx is widely known as a “food desert”, where people lack access to fresh produce and adequate nutrition. In teaching kids to grow their own food, Ritz has been able to teach kids about nutrition and responsibility, as well as re-establish their connection with nature. As Ritz said, “When you teach kids about nature, you teach them to nurture”. The program has proven to motivate students academically and provide them with gardening and landscaping skills, which has helped many of his students build careers and get jobs after graduation.

The discussion then moved to a panel on tech innovations for ending hunger. The panel featured Jimmy Chen, Andra Tomsa, and Robert Lee who are all young founders of apps seeking to close the gap in food equity. Chen is the founder of Propel which aims to bring food-stamps into the new age. Food stamps traditionally require users to wait on long lines and makes it difficult for users to check their balance. With Propels app “Fresh EBT” users can easily check their balance and find locations that accept food stamps. Andra Tomsa, a Fordham Alumni, is the creator of SPARE NYC which makes it easy for users to round up their food bill to the nearest dollar and donate the remainder to local food banks. Tomsa is partnering with more and more restaurants each day and even allows customers to gain rewards from using the app. Meanwhile, Robert Lee, founder of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine has created a web app to creatively partner with transportation and companies in order to end hunger and food waste. His company makes it easier for people to donate their leftovers from events and parties. The panel discussed the issues of hunger, food waste, and the pros and cons of nonprofit versus for profit structures.

The panel focused on urban farming innovations featured FarmSchoolNYC, Brotherhood- Sister sol, and Sprout by Design. All of these organizations work to empower underprivileged people through gardening. They have found growing your own food and taking care of a garden provides motivation and inspiration for both young and old alike.

Additionally, speaker Tanya Fields of the BLK Projek, a food justice advocate in the South Bronx, gave a presentation on how she brings fresh produce to her food-poor community. Founder of Amp Your Good, Patrick O’Neil, also discussed crowd-feeding, a modern take on the food drive which aims to give those in need healthy, fresh produce instead of the traditional canned goods.

The numerous speakers at the 2016 Food Rich Summit inspired lively discussion and even more innovative ideas for ending hunger. Be sure to check out some of these organizations and make your own impact on ending hunger in NYC.


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