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Bronx students now grow 25,000 pounds of produce in old science lab

THE BRONX -- Students in New York City are getting an education in farming and food thanks to an innovative new program.

DeWitt Clinton High School, one of the Bronx's biggest high schools, has 1,300 square feet dedicated to hydroponic farming which uses only water and no soil.

“Our students here at DeWitt Clinton High School have built a hydroponic farm. These plants are benefiting from recirculating water, which saves 90 percent of the water that you would use in traditional soil-based agriculture, and as a result also we’re able to use all of the vertical space in the room to grow,” said Katherine Soll, CEO and director of Teens for Food Justice.

Inside a former science lab, students are growing 25,000 pounds of produce, which feeds 2,200 students daily.

“This would be considered a food insecure area, where there is a real scarcity of healthy food retail,” Soll said.

That's why the program, run by Teens for Food Justice, is so important.

“It’s a human right for everyone to have adequate access to nutritious, healthy food. Food that they need, food that is going to allow them to have a life that’s free of some of the diet-related issues that we have in our society,” said Josh Thomas-Serrano, development and communications manager at Teens for Food Justice.

A farm manager said before this experience, some students didn't know what swiss chard was and now they're growing it.

The program has been so successful, a similar one is being built at a middle school in Brownsville and another at Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Complex near Lincoln Center.

“Our students really see what it’s like to build sustainable, healthy vegetables that can then be brought into our lunch room and brought to our community so that our students really show that community service that we want them to see. That’s part of our mission,” DeWitt principal Pierre Orbe said.