Workforce Housing Advisors makes a garden grow

October 1, 2014
Posted in Community Gardens

GrowNYC is very proud to have worked on making Kelly Street Green come to life in the Bronx. Congratulations to our friends at Workforce Housing Advisors on a great project!

Fresh Foodbox profiled in the Observer

August 4, 2014
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged foodbox

GrowNYC's Fresh Foodbox program was recently profiled in a New York Observer article entitled "Overpriced and Underserved: How One Group is Fighting Food Deserts in NYC."  We couldn't have said it better ourselves!

In a city that seems to have a grocery store or fruit stand on every block, it might be surprising to learn that fresh produce is often inaccessible to many New Yorkers. But in areas known as "food deserts," quality produce is difficult to find, especially on a budget. Fortunately, an expanding program at GrowNYC is striving to make eating fruits and vegetables cool, accessible and affordable again.

Each FoodBox includes a fruit, a cooking green, a raw green, an aromatic (i.e. garlic, scallion, onion), and 5-8 fresh and seasonal vegetables. Ms. Tucker claimed that buyers are often surprised by how much food is actually in a FoodBox — enough to feed a family of four for a week when supplemented with grains and proteins.

Although Fresh FoodBox is aimed at underserved areas throughout the city and accepts EBT/SNAP benefits in addition to cash and credit/debit, Ms. Tucker pointed out that areas lacking access to quality produce are not necessarily located in poorer neighborhoods.

"We have a FoodBox [site] on the Upper East Side,” Ms. Tucker noted “… [Participants] are so excited because everything in the area is Coach handbag stores, but you can’t buy an apple."

Read the article!

A Day in the Life: A Grow to Learn School Garden tour

July 8, 2014

Grow to Learn celebrated the end of the 2013-14 school year with a tour of four school gardens in Harlem and the Bronx. Since launching in February 2011, 438 schools have joined Grow to Learn, making them eligible for garden grant funding, training and materials offered by Grow to Learn partners GrowNYC, NYC Parks Department’s GreenThumb Division and NYC Department of Education’s Office of SchoolFood. Join us on this virtual tour of some dynamic school gardening programs:

Stepping into the hydroponics classroom at PS 208m The Alain L. Locke Magnet School for Environmental Stewardship, several fifth graders sat huddled over small tanks in front of them.  They were adjusting and observing the miniature hydroponics systems they had designed and built themselves.  Behind them stood the rows of basil, rainbow chard, and lettuce they’d been tending in the larger classroom system that served as their model. 

The class, taught by hydroponics teacher Tina Wong, begins with the history and basics of hydroponics, includes lots of planting and harvesting (each student tends to one plant, and picks what they get to grow), and ends with a STEM-infused experimental design unit.  Next year, students will test their know-how against the elements by expanding their garden – for the first time – outdoors.  With the help of City Year and Grow to Learn staff, PS 208 built an outdoor garden area with raised beds in cheerful shades of purple, yellow, red, and blue.  During the coming school year, students will run a small farmers’ market as part of their class, learning economics and business principles as they garden.

Ask the students at Family Life Academy Charter School, the next stop on our tour, if they know a good place to get local produce, and they might just tell you their roof.  During our visit, FLACS students could be spotted pulling young carrots straight from the ground, lining up at the hose for a quick rinse, and munching away.  Between bites, students shared a variety of facts they’d learned researching different crops in the garden (originally, students had been asked to create labels for crops, but got so excited they would up making a fact-packed laminated brochure for every plant in the garden). 

The school’s chef, Chef Bennett, looked on proudly.  He uses garden produce (especially herbs) in the school’s cafeteria, and uses the garden as a way to make healthy eating more appetizing, exciting, and understandable to the students that pass through his lunchroom.  We were lucky enough to stay for lunch, and enjoyed a fresh salad bar, roasted cauliflower, and other healthy treats!

At Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy, students spoke eloquently about the hard work and long hours they’d contributed to the garden.  They shared their different roles (from seed-purchaser to resident photographer), their garden struggles (a four-flight bucket brigade to bring soil to their terrace garden came to mind), and the rewards of all their hard work – like pesto from garden-grown basil served in the cafeteria.  Currently in their second season, the Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy gardeners felt more seasoned, and expected to produce over 400 tomatoes – a bumper crop compared to the four they said they harvested last year!

We ended the day with a sweet surprise at PS 154x Jonathan D. Hyatt: members of the Chicken and Garden Club greeted us at the garden gate with a bucket of freshly picked raspberries.  Older students, about to graduate, showed up-and-coming Garden Club students the ropes: from watering, to weeding, to eating radishes straight from the ground.  Most exciting, though, was the run on the far side of the building where “The Ladies” live.  Four hens (Storm, CoCo, Tami, and Diva) live and roost in a coop and run abutting Alexander Avenue, and are a constant source of curiosity and delight for teachers, students, neighborhood residents, and passersby.

Health Bucks are Back!

July 7, 2014
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged ebt, health bucks

From now until November, while supplies last, for every $5 you spend with your EBT card at one of our Greenmarkets, you will receive a $2 Health Bucks coupon good for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables in the market.

The Health Bucks initiative was developed by the NYC Health Department District Public Health Offices and in 2013, GrowNYC’s Greenmarkets distributed over $260,000 worth of Health Bucks at 51 market locations. The increase of 40% in buying power can help increase a Food Stamp budget and encourage shoppers to spend more of their monthly Food Stamp allotment on fresh produce from the market. Overall, this innovative program helps GrowNYC/Greenmarket provide additional opportunities for shoppers to access fresh and affordable produce in NYC.

Ever wondered if you might qualify for EBT/Foodstamp benefits? There are over 500,000 people in New York City that qualify for EBT/Foodstamps but do not receive them. Several of our markets will be holding EBT screening sessions throughout the summer to help New Yorkers find out if they qualify for Foodstamps and provide them with resources on how to file for those benefits. Partners including The New York City Coalition Against Hunger, The Food Bank of New York City, and The Met Council will be on hand at Union Square Greenmarket through the end of August on Mondays and Fridays from 9 am to 2 pm and at other markets throughout the summer and fall. Visit your local market webpage to find out if they will be hosting an upcoming screening.   

Learn more about GrowNYC's EBT and Food Access programs.

Governors Island Teaching Garden is Open

July 5, 2014
Posted in Community Gardens

GrowNYC is excited to announce the opening of a brand new urban farm on Governors Island! Governors Island Teaching Garden, which was created as a result of the combined efforts of GrowNYC and the Trust for Governors Island, is an 8,000 square foot urban farm that will feature over 20 vegetable beds made from recycled plastic lumber, a gourd tunnel, fruit trees, a bean teepee, an outdoor kitchen, and so much more!

The garden will host free field trips for New York City public school and summer camp groups April-November. If you would like to schedule a field trip for the Summer 2014 season, please fill out the Field Trip Request Form. Due to the high demand of field trips, a spot is not guaranteed.

In addition to scheduled school visits, the garden will host gardening workshops and will be open to the public during weekends from July 12 through September 28, 12pm-4pm. GrowNYC will provide tours, volunteer opportunities, and activities for children and families. Please check our website for scheduled events.

If you are interested in receiving information about upcoming field trip, workshop, or volunteer opportunities, please fill out the Governors Island Teaching Garden Survey.

Grow to Learn NYC Congratulates Carson Daly and the Today Show for "shining a light" on the importance of school gardens

May 30, 2014
Posted in Community Gardens

A statement by Marcel Van Ooyen Executive Director, GrowNYC

I want to personally congratulate Carson Daly of the Today Show for supporting our efforts to build a garden in every New York City School.  Since its launch in February 2011, Grow to Learn NYC has been working to connect NYC public and charter schools with the funding, training and materials needed for their students to dig in, connect to nature and build more positive attitudes towards healthy foods.

As a result of our partnerships with city agencies, funders and fellow non-profits, 436 schools have registered garden projects with Grow to Learn, giving them access to the garden mini-grants, training, material giveaways as well as opportunities and resources offered by greening and wellness partner organizations--with a focus on supporting schools in underserved communities like the South Bronx, Central and East Harlem and Central Brooklyn.

To date, Grow to Learn has distributed $517,000 in 331 garden mini-grants to schools. And one hundred percent of funds raised for mini-grants go directly to the schools to allow them to purchase what they need from local retailers so their learning garden programs can bloom.  

We are deeply grateful to Mr. Daly and the Today Show for highlighting the need to expand gardens to all schools and look forward to seeing more school gardens bloom around the city. 

GrowNYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen profiled by the New York Times

May 6, 2014
Posted in GrowNYC

The New York Times recently profiled GrowNYC's Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen in its Sunday Routine column.

Check out what our boss is up to!

The New Greenmarket Cookbook is here!

May 5, 2014
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged cookbook

Just in time to guide you through the abundance of summer at Greenmarket, with bright berries, crisp pole beans, and every size, shape and color of heirloom tomato, The New Greenmarket Cookbook has arrived!

Written by Gabrielle Langholtz, the book shares recipes from 100 of our favorite chefs. These dishes spotlight seasonal, local ingredients – from fluke to freekeh to fingerlings - available at what Chef Michael Anthony calls, "one of our most precious resources in New York City."

Beyond recipes, the book offers 20 stories of Greenmarket farmers, fishers, millers, sugarmakers and beekeepers. Nevia No of Bodhi Tree Farm divulges the secrets behind her impeccable farmstand, and Chip Kent of Locust Grove Fruit Farm tells tales of Union Square’s local color in the early days of Greenmarket. The chefs within the book’s pages are some of these farmers’ very best customers, encouraging them to grow new things and eagerly gobbling up the farmers’ own experiments. The New Greenmarket Cookbook celebrates these relationships as well as providing delicious recipes simple enough for the home cook.

You’ll find it at every retailer and at your neighborhood Greenmarket. Keep checking this page for details, and happy cooking!

GrowNYC Releases Resilient Garden Manual

April 2, 2014
Posted in Community Gardens

GrowNYC is proud to announce the release of the Resilient NYC Community Garden Guide, a practical guide on making your garden more resilient, including step-by-step guidelines to minimizing storm damage.

Superstorm Sandy came as a surprise to so many New Yorkers and lack of proper prevention exacerbated its impact. As weather incidents are more frequent, it is important that we take simple steps to minimize damage and have access to information that will help our green spaces get back online, serving New Yorkers.

GrowNYC is committed to creating a healthier, more resilient city for all of us by providing free tools and resources any New Yorker can take advantage of to improve their community. We hope this toolkit helps you to steward your green space responsibly and to ensure enjoyment for years to come thanks to sound design and preparedness.

We’ve outlined what to do before and after a major storm or other weather event so that you will be better prepared. From preventive pruning techniques to ways to secure garden features, we hope this guide will serve as a practical resource for you and your green space.

Get the Guide!

Unexpected Benefits in School Wide Recycling Initiatives

March 3, 2014
Posted in Recycling

How do you improve recycling in NYC schools?  Involve the whole school in the effort!

Recycling protects our environment, stimulates economic development creating local jobs, and reduces global warming gases, benefitting the entire community.  At these K-12 Staten Island schools in the Recycling Champion Program , involving the entire community was the key to increasing recycling and environmental stewardship, but the additional benefits experienced have been an added bonus.

New Dorp High School
New Dorp High School improved cafeteria Organics Collection by launching an outreach campaign. Principal Deirdre De Angelis emphasized the importance of student participation before televising a recycling video in every classroom, featuring their mascot, the Cougar.  Custodial staff installed movie theatre style stantions next to the recycling station and additional staff instruction reinforced sorting. The Green Team sustained the effort by putting up posters and offering prizes for exemplary stewardship.  Cafeteria recycling and organics collection increased by at least 60%.

Students really appreciate the added bonus: the cafeteria is much cleaner, and is a more pleasant place to eat.  Cafeteria staff doesn’t mind the change either, since they were cleaning up after the students!


P.S. 30 Westerleigh

P.S. 30 dramatically increased recycling across the school by creating a Green Team that helps with cafeteria monitoring, and also communicates with the student body during morning announcements.   They kicked off their efforts with a school wide contest to decorate all their classroom paper recycling bins. The faculty enthusiastically supported the contest through their artistic flare and integrating recycling into lesson plans. The school’s overall diversion rate improved by 31%, with paper recycling rates increasing by 63% in just a few week.  Parents volunteered weekly to assist the Green Team with their own educational presentation.  According to Sustainability Coordinator Clare Mitchell, participating on this selective team has increased not only ecological literacy and stewardship, but has also proved to be an effective tool to improve attitude and behavior – improving overall academic performance.  


P.S. 21 Margaret Emery Elm Park

P.S. 21 created Dr. Seuss-like trees made from milk cartons, soda bottles, and magazines, to reinforce recycling, but also give students a creative way to practice their writing skills.  Students wrote “their story” on individual “leaves” which were strung on wire bases to create the trees.  Decorating the school at holiday time, Principal Gina Merino’s enthusiasm for the project helped student vocabulary “grow” along with school pride and awareness of environmental issues.  The Recycling Champions Program science class lessons reinforced the three RRR’s, which overlap with many requirements in the science Common Core and Regents exams.

Stakeholders in these schools increased recycling by working together, sharing the responsibility to teach and encourage environmental stewardship.  Improving recycling programs benefitted not only the NYC community, but their own school community as well.  For more information on how to improve recycling at your school visit

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