MLK JR. Educational Campus Students Launch the “Teens for Food Justice/Whole Kids Foundation Farm” to Grow Over 10,000 pounds of Produce per Year for School and Community

For Immediate Release March 2, 2020

Teens for Food Justice in partnership with the Whole Kids Foundation showcased their indoor hydroponic farm that is already feeding 2,000+ students to local elected officials and industry leaders.

Manhattan, NY: Teens for Food Justice (TFFJ), in partnership with Whole Kids Foundation, and the inventive and industrious students of Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus opened the doors to their school sustaining hydroponic farm for local elected officials, the media and notable industry members. The students, in conjunction with dedicated staff and community members, have been working to build, grow, and maintain a working and blossoming hydroponic farm on campus that serves the school community.

The young urban farmers experience the meaningful rewards of building a tangible, working solution to food insecurity throughout New York City and in their neighborhood communities. Just last month, students harvested over 700 pounds of fresh produce, such as kale and lettuce, and have been serving them in the school cafeteria during lunch. The successful launch has put them on track to grow over 10,000 pounds of produce for their school and community this year – a true accomplishment and proof that their hard work is making a real difference!

Through this purposeful participation, thanks to generous leadership from Hunter College, and funding from Whole Foods Market, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, and United Way of New York City the students transform the relationship they have with the food they eat, instilling a lifelong understanding of healthy eating habits and sustainability. Additionally, the students are able to use their unique experiences in school to help further develop and master key science and STEM skills needed in a new green sector economy.

The event was hosted by Kevin Froner, Principal of Manhattan Hunter Science High School and featured presentations by MLK, Jr. campus students, Teens for Food Justice CEO and Founder Katherine Soll, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, NYS Senator Brad Hoylman, Hunter College President Jennifer Raab, and representatives from Whole Foods Market/Whole Kids Foundation.

Teens for Food Justice, a nonprofit organization that works to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to healthy, affordable food through youth-led, community-based solutions, currently operates three high-capacity school-based hydroponic farms in NYC serving seven schools in the Bronx and Brooklyn.  Together, these farms are expected to grow in excess of 30,000 pounds of produce annually that feed students daily at lunch and their local communities on an ongoing basis. 

“Almost six years ago, we were looking for a way to improve food quality for our students.  After meeting with Hunter College President Jennifer Raab and Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center Executive Director Charles Platkin, we came up with a few ideas but the one that had the most promise was the hydroponic farm.  We are very proud that what started as a small project for the students in the Manhattan Hunter Science High School, is now feeding the entire campus and has become a model for others around the city.” – Kevin Froner, Manhattan Hunter Science Principal

“The TFFJ/Whole Kids Farm at MLK is engaging students from all six of the campus’ co-located schools in a comprehensive social justice initiative that is empowering them to change the nature of the food they eat every day, understand the connections between nutrition and health, and speak to how good food access is not the same from community to community and why that inequity must end.  We are so proud to be part of this collaboration of NYC educators, thought leaders, policymakers and youth leaders that have brought TFFJ to MLK and allowed us the opportunity to work with its 2100 students through STEM classes, internships, after school health, nutrition, and advocacy programming and youth-led food distribution projects. With the addition of MLK, TFFJ’s four hydroponic farms can now grow more than 25,000 pounds of food annually for their 14 schools’ cafeterias, their students and their families, and their local food-insecure community members.” – Katherine Soll, Teens for Food Justice,  CEO

“It is in partnership with organizations like Teens for Food Justice that we are able to improve the nutrition and healthy eating habits of millions of students. The MLK farm will provide real-world opportunities for students to apply the concepts they learn in classes like biology and chemistry, and it also creates an indelible understanding of how food grows…and we know from years of experience and stacks of research, that when students understand and participate in growing food – they make healthier choices for a lifetime. Our deepest gratitude to the team at Teens for Food Justice – Katherine’s persistence and innovation has created a unique, effective model to bring students and the community together.”

Jamiee Rondeau, Whole Kids Foundation, President & Executive Director

“In Manhattan, at least 39,000 children experience food insecurity. Hydroponic farming in our schools is a fun, innovative way to tackle the challenge of food insecurity while teaching students about biology and nutrition. Because of Teens for Food Justice’s vital work in the community, I was able to help secure $20,000 in funding for them in last year’s state budget and now look forward to watching this organization grow and thrive. I’m grateful to the Whole Kids Foundation and the students and administration at Martin Luther King Jr. Educational campus for their important work, which is helping to feed 2,000 students.” – State Senator Brad Hoylman

“The hydroponic farm started by Manhattan Hunter Science High School—with the wonderful support from Teens for Food Justice and the Whole Kids Foundation—provides so many learning opportunities for students, including the framework for discussions on nutrition and healthy eating, economics, and business partnerships. It also plants the seed—pun intended—for futures in entrepreneurship. With the potential to change the course of students’ lives, experiential learning like this is a critical priority for education, including at all the schools that are part of Hunter College.”

Jennifer J. Raab, Hunter College President

“I am beyond delighted that the hydroponic farm at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Campus is already producing hundreds of pounds of food for surrounding communities, and I am proud to have helped support this incredible project. School-based farms and gardens offer a wonderful opportunity for young people to explore environmental science, develop a life-long passion for growing and cultivation, and examine food-related issues across society. Special thanks to Teens for Food Justice and the staff, teachers, and students at the MLK, Jr. campus for all their hard work and dedication.” – Council Member Helen Rosenthal, District 6, Manhattan

“I’m proud my office contributed funding to build this facility. Urban farming is intrinsically educational in explaining to ‘city kids’ where their food comes from and the science of nutrition. But Urban Farming also has the potential to alleviate food insecurity and help develop the ‘green’ economy for the future. Congratulations to Teens for Food Justice and the Whole Kids Foundation for bringing this project to completion!” – Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer

Empowering Teens Feeding Communities Building a Healthy Sustainable Future