Green Bronx Machine is harvesting healthier communities

Lauren and some of the Green Bronx Machine team selling the students’ produce at a Macquarie Group event.

From fundraising to farming, there’s nothing Lauren Jia loves more than a new challenge in her volunteer role on the board of Green Bronx Machine. Deeply passionate about youth development and equal access to education, Lauren was a natural fit for the non-profit that’s dedicated to working with young people to build healthy communities.

“I love rolling up my sleeves in my volunteer role. Serving as a board member for a small but rapidly growing organisation, I wear many hats and do everything from strategic planning to setting budgets, fundraising to planting our farm,” she says.

Green Bronx Machine is set in the heart of the South Bronx, New York City. The organisation’s work is critical in a community where close to 60% of the population of children live in poverty and 37% are food insecure.

Lauren serves on the Board with Macquarie colleague Olivier Delille through their participation in the BoardLead program. BoardLead is a board placement and training program that Macquarie provides to employees in our New York, Houston and Philadelphia offices. More than 50 employees have been placed on boards through the program since 2016.  Lauren and Olivier are both locals from Macquarie’s New York office and are passionate about Green Bronx Machine’s innovative education strategy.

“Green Bronx Machine’s approach to education and health combines urban agriculture with every aspect of the school curriculum. We believe healthy students drive healthy schools, which drives healthy communities,” says Lauren.

This alternative approach to the traditional school curriculum is gaining momentum worldwide. It’s now a regular feature of the school day for 50,000 kids in 20 US states and five countries.

“The program has yielded incredible academic results for children, especially those who were at risk of being held back a grade. When kids get to plant, grow, and harvest their own garden, suddenly reading, writing, mathematics, and science all have a real-world application. Not only do their test scores improve, their appreciation for health and wellness also improves,” says Lauren.

The positive effects ripple out into the community, as produce grown is shared with those in the neighbourhood who need it most.

Lauren shares, “Every week, our kids send home 100 bags of groceries for participating students and families. We partner with a local hospital to distribute 400 bags of student-grown vegetables each month to seniors recovering from cancer. And we operate a garden that generates 5000 pounds of vegetables every season for local families.”

The skills she uses on the Board are those that she’s applied daily in her five years at Macquarie.

“I’m able to apply my skills from my role at Macquarie, so it’s been a perfect fit. I’ve been mostly involved in fundraising. To see how every dollar actually impacts each child – that’s an incredible feeling.”

Erin Shakespeare, regional head of the Macquarie Group Foundation in the Americas commented: “Joining a non-profit board can be a transformative experience, as volunteers channel their energy into meaningful causes while taking their leadership skills to the next level.” 

Lauren’s excited to continue her journey on the Board and help sow the seeds for future generations.

“As we like to say, our favourite thing to harvest is hope, so we can grow the next crop of kids to produce education-inspired, resilient communities.”

Last financial year, over 240 Macquarie employees gave back to the community by serving on non-profit boards. The Macquarie Group Foundation makes a one-time $A10,000 donation to non-profit organisations where a staff member sits on the board for at least one year.