His class attendance went from 40% to 93%. Because of a garden?

Stephen Ritz suffered great personal loss. So he refocused on everyone else's kids — and turned a class with a 40% attendance rate to a 93% attendance rate. How?

Steve Ritz was just like any other parent, doing his best to get by. Then tragedy struck.

From that pain, he decided to refocus his energy on helping other kids.


He went to teach in one of the most troubled schools in the South Bronx.

It had a 17% graduation rate, lots of violence, lots of poverty, and lots of really hungry kids. In fact, 99% of Steve's students qualified for free or reduced lunch.

The South Bronx is what those who work in nutrition call a "food desert." A food desert is what happens when a neighborhood or city doesn't have easily accessible and affordable healthy food. All they have are corner stores and fast food, while real grocery stores are in limited supply.

During his work, he discovered that most of the kids who are considered learning disabled wouldn't have been if they'd had proper prenatal nutrition.

Many of the people who live in the South Bronx also suffer from something called "food insecurity." Food insecurity means you don't know where your next meal will come from. For people who live in food deserts, this is a fairly common feeling.

The students that Stephen teaches struggle with all kinds of problems. Most of his kids are homeless. Many are in foster care.

70% of his students were considered "learning disabled" but didn't have to be.

During his work, Stephen discovered that most of the kids who are considered learning disabled wouldn't have been if they'd had proper prenatal nutrition.

Then fate set him and his students on a new path.

One day, someone sent him a donation of daffodil bulbs.

Finding that the bulbs had turned into flowers behind the radiator inspired them to dream big.

So he and the kids created the Green Bronx Machine.

The Green Bronx Machine is a nonprofit devoted to growing healthy food curriculums and economies locally. It teaches kids how to be healthy and provides them with healthy food options, which in turn helps them focus and perform better in and out of school.

Together, they've created a school curriculum around healthy eating and gardening.

The students grow food (30,000 pounds of it to date), and they create sustainable gardens on roofs and in classrooms all over New York (creating jobs for some of the teens in the program). The kids have significantly increased their academic achievement.

And even better? The students get to eat the things they grow and bring food home, too, while learning how to farm and manage food production at the same time.

The bottom line: Teaching kids how to grow things helps them grow.

The kids in Steve's class went from a 40% attendance rate to a 93% attendance rate, and they're getting 100% passing rates on New York State Examinations.

All the data point toward future health and success for the students and the program.

Take it away, Mr. Ritz:


Watch the video and hear their story:

Want to help them make their program even better?

PS 55 donated an old library room with lots of sunlight to create a brand-new learning center for his students. They call it The National Health and Wellness Center at PS 55.

What will it do? According to the site:

Indoor Teaching Farm – we will teach students hands-on about food from seed to harvest, and will connect lessons to classroom curriculum.
Teaching Kitchen we will teach students how to prepare and cook the vegetables they have just grown to create delicious, healthy meals.
Media and Resource Center – students will have access to computers for data recording and analysis, and internet for research and inter-classroom lessons with other schools across the country and internationally.
Indoor Community Farm – we will grow enough food to send 100 students per week home with bags of fresh vegetables, 52 weeks per year.


If you'd like to help make it a reality, you can donate here.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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