LONG ISLAND CITY, NY--(Marketwired - May 2, 2013) - Online grocer FreshDirect, announced today the inaugural launch of its Green Angel Fund Challenge, an urban agriculture focused competition between the Sustainability Workshop School in Philadelphia run by Simon Hauger, and the John V. Lindsay Wildcat Charter School in the Bronx run by Marc Donald with support provided by Stephen Ritz of the Green Bronx Machine.
The schools will each be guided by farmer mentors and compete to develop the nation's most innovative hydroponic garden (based on yield and eco-friendly design), as part of a broader mission to solve inner-city food and farming issues -- with the chance to win $10,000 along the way. The competition is being hosted and funded by FreshDirect, an online grocery retailer dedicated to changing the relationship people have with food, freshness and farmers. The Green Angel Fund was inspired by FreshDirect's mission to continually drive environmental sustainability innovation. It is one of the first seed funds specifically focused on launching student-developed green ventures.
"We chose these schools based on their innovative curriculums and focus on solving "real world" problems in an urban setting, and both schools represent the two major cities in our operating area," said David McInerney, FreshDirect's Co-Founder. "As a company committed to both urban dwellers and farmers, we feel it's our responsibility to help ensure a sustainable and healthy supply chain of food -- for all consumers. Since hydroponic gardens grow fresh, nutrient-dense food indoors and in cities with a minimal carbon footprint, we felt this was the perfect subject for this competition. We can't wait to see the approach these students take to introduce sustainable farming methods that will ultimately lead to a healthier world."
As a sign of support for this important venture, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have made a friendly wager saying they believe each of their respective city's schools will win the challenge. Win or lose, both mayors will proclaim June 11 -- the day the hydroponic gardens are revealed to the public for the first time -- "Urban Farm Education Day" in Philadelphia and New York City.
"In Philadelphia, we've set an ambitious goal to be the country's greenest city. We are working to promote healthy eating and living," said Mayor Michael Nutter. "We are thrilled to support a challenge that showcases how our youth can create greener practices and can get us thinking about how to eat and grow fresh, healthy foods."
"This challenge is an opportunity for our students to learn about healthy foods, science and problem-solving," said Mayor Bloomberg. "In New York City, we've launched agriculture programs in schools to teach students about where their food comes from, and have expanded urban agriculture programs through community and roof-top gardens. This program brings those lessons to our classrooms and I look forward to seeing our students' proposals."
Green Angel Fund Challenge Background
FreshDirect co-founder and food sourcing expert David McInerney travels the world forging relationships with hundreds of farmers, ranchers and fishermen, to source the best tasting, healthiest, freshest foods for consumers. During these journeys McInerney has become keenly aware that there is a fundamental flaw in our food system, which forces our farmers to grow food for transport rather than taste. Today fresh foods don't taste like they should; people aren't eating them, and processed foods are winning -- and its crippling the future of our farmers.
What's more, people in the United States eat 31 percent more unhealthy processed food than fresh food -- that's more per person than any country on earth. Nowhere are these issues more apparent than with our urban youth. Many urban youth live in "food deserts" where inexpensive, processed foods, linked to diseases such as diabetes and obesity, are the winning choices. For youth living in these "food deserts", their brain development is at risk since processed foods, fats, sugars and other carbohydrates hinder their ability to stay healthy, energized and mentally sharp.
Recognizing the dual problem facing both farmers and urban youth, The Green Angel Fund Challenge asks students at the Sustainability Workshop and John V. Lindsay Wildcat Charter School to put their real-world problem-solving skills to the test in a competition to build the best hydroponic garden that not only produces the highest yield, but is also the most eco-friendly. Hydroponics is a method of organically growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions and water without soil or pesticides.
This challenge allows farmers and urban students to team up to develop solutions to these problems: developing models for sustainable urban agriculture. The teamwork is mutually beneficial: farmers help the students by imparting knowledge and expertise to them about best farming practices before they develop their models. Students benefit farmers by creating new models that will produce a yield and help to increase the demand for fresh foods in the inner city.
"Each year, our students do incredible project work where they tackle sustainability issues with hands-on solutions. Now they are expanding their abilities, by addressing issues like food sustainability and creating access in food deserts," said Simon Hauger, co-founder and teacher at the Sustainability workshop. "We look forward to helping tackle the issues of farming and food access that will lead to a brighter and healthier future."
Green Angel Fund Challenge Implementation
Phase I: Field Trips: Each school will team up with their local greenhouses in FreshDirect's supply chain by first visiting the greenhouse and seeing their best farming practices first hand. A member of each greenhouse will serve as a mentor to the students throughout the duration of their project.
Phase II: Proposals: May 6 and May 7: FreshDirect executives will travel to both schools as they present their ideas and designs for the most innovative hydroponic gardens. The students will present their plans based on insights gleaned from their visits to the local greenhouse and on their own new research. After hearing both ideas, FreshDirect will present each school with $10,000 to help fund the cost of making their hydroponic gardens a reality. Both schools will be winners.
Phase III: Hydroponic Garden Reveal and Judging: June 11: Having spent weeks building the hydroponic gardens and documenting the journey with video and photographs, the schools will present their final products together on June 11. An expert panel of judges will announce the inaugural Green Angel Fund winner. The scoring will be based on yield/square foot, cost and sustainable design.
"When students come to Wildcat, they are requesting a 'second chance' to achieve academic success and through this project, we believe we are giving our farmers and our Bronx community a second chance to eat healthy fresh foods in a greener way," said Marc Donald, Principal of Wildcat Academy. "We can't wait to show the world what our youth can really do!"
FreshDirect is a leading online grocer in the U.S., delivering premium quality fresh-from-the-farm foods and brand-name groceries to customers in the greater New York, New Jersey, Connecticut metro area and greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. With a more than 2,500-member workforce that is still growing, FreshDirect places an emphasis on nutritious, delicious meals and convenient services that allow customers more time to live healthy lives. FreshDirect aspires to be a valued corporate partner in all communities in which it serves.
For more information, visit www.freshdirect.com. Follow FreshDirect on Twitter: @freshdirect and on Facebook: facebook.com/FreshDirect