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Sowing the seeds of success

Nova Scotia’s youth-driven, inner-city Hope Blooms is growing its reach to Ontario

If you haven't heard of Hope Blooms yet, it’s likely you soon will. On the surface, it’s a supplier of salad dressings and herbal teas—but the real story is the success this youth-run community business has brought to its immediate inner-city Halifax community, and also how it is supporting immigrants and providing scholarships. It is truly a feel-good story.

Hope Blooms is based in a neighbourhood of Halifax—the North End—that has long been stigmatized by many of the same issues experienced within inner-city communities across the country. Since its launch in 2008 with seven kids and a small plot of land in Halifax, Hope Blooms has grown to operate an award-winning community garden, greenhouse and community kitchen.

The youth involved today grow approximately 4,000 pounds of fresh produce each year, which is used to make their fresh herb dressings and specialty teas, and to feed members of the local community. They also help create a healthier community through nutrition and experiential education programs.

Back in 2015, Loblaw-owned Atlantic Superstore locations in Halifax first provided an opportunity for Hope Blooms to sell its fresh herb dressings in grocery stores—a partnership that’s grown immensely over the past four years to now include things such as professional development and youth mentoring opportunities. A dozen grocery stores in Nova Scotia currently carry the dressings, and, according to a release, “over 50,000 bottles of dressing have been sold, with 100% of sales going back to Hope Blooms to fund a scholarship program that supports the organization’s youth members as they graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education.”

And now, thanks to Loblaw, Hope Blooms is bringing its winning formula to Ontario. This summer, Hope Blooms Fresh Herb Dressings and Possibili-Teas specialty teas were introduced at Loblaw’s Maple Leaf Gardens location in downtown Toronto. Along with supporting the scholarship program and children’s food garden programs, $1 from each sale of Hope Blooms dressings and teas at the Maple Leaf Gardens store goes to Hope Blooms’ new community partners in Toronto, including Scadding Court Community Centre, to help them establish a gardening-based youth social enterprise modelled after Halifax’s Hope Blooms.

“Since Hope Blooms’ humble beginnings more than 10 years ago, we’ve proven that youth-led social entrepreneurship and community involvement can have a huge positive impact,” says the organization’s founder and executive director Jessie Jollymore in a release. “We are thrilled to now be able to connect with youth in Toronto who are growing up in similar circumstances as the kids at Hope Blooms ... We hope that Torontonians will embrace the opportunity to support our efforts to help inspire children and youth to be change-makers.”

According to Hope Blooms’ website, the organization has a strong food security mandate: over the past seven years alone the youth have grown more than 21,000 pounds of organic vegetables and fruit for community members struggling with food insecurity. Each month it provides (free of charge) 260 healthy meals and 306 healthy snacks to local community members. It has a farm exchange program in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley as well, and the organization worked to bring more than 500 pounds of organic produce that its youth donated to the 110 Syrian refugees that now live in their community.

You may recall that in 2013, young people from Hope Blooms made a pitch on the Dragons’ Den TV show, looking for $10,000 to build a greenhouse. Their pitch was so impressive, they received $40,000. It was their first big success, and just proved you should not underestimate the drive and determination of dedicated and motivated young people.

Will Hope Blooms products be coming to your store in the future?

This column appeared in Canadian Grocer’September/October issue.

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