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Loblaws, Hope Blooms planting seeds of change in Toronto

Loblaw Cos. Ltd. and Hope Blooms announced an expansion of their partnership, bringing a unique social enterprise from Halifax to Toronto. Through the sales of Hope Blooms Fresh Herb Dressings and Possibili-Teas specialty teas, the organization will support local youth at Toronto-area Scadding Court Community Centre, providing funding and business experience to centre participants.loblaw

Born out of a vision to engage and empower youth in a vulnerable community, Hope Blooms was founded in 2008 with seven young children and a small plot of land in inner-city Halifax. In a neighbourhood that has traditionally been stigmatized by many of the same issues faced by urban communities across Canada. The organization has grown and thrived along with its youth members. They currently operate an award-winning community garden, greenhouse and community kitchen. The youth grow approximately 4,000 pounds of fresh produce each year, which is used to make their fresh herb dressings and specialty teas, as well as feeding members of the local community. They also contribute with a goal to a healthier community through their social enterprise, urban organic food gardens, nutrition and experiential education programs.

Hope Blooms gained national attention in 2014 with a successful appearance on CBC TV's Dragon's Den that has been named as one of the Dragon's Den top pitches of all time. This investment allowed Hope Blooms to take its already successful social enterprise to new heights; along the way Hope Blooms has forged many more partnerships and has been recognized with numerous awards locally, nationally and internationally.

In 2015, Loblaw-owned Atlantic Superstore locations in Halifax provided an opportunity for Hope Blooms to sell its fresh herb dressings more broadly in the community — a partnership that has been embraced by both organizations and has grown substantially over the past four years to also include youth mentoring, professional development opportunities and more. Currently, 12 Nova Scotia stores carry the dressings. To date over 50,000 bottles of dressing have been sold, with 100 percent 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.

Sharla Paraskevopoulos, senior vice president of market operations for Loblaw, said the company is proud to be associated with Hope Blooms, both in Nova Scotia and now also in Toronto.

"In addition to growing their own food, Hope Blooms also grows pride, a sense of belonging in community and brighter futures for its children," said Paraskevopoulos. "Now, in partnership with the Loblaws store at Maple Leaf Gardens, the youth of Hope Blooms are expanding their social enterprise so they can grow its impact beyond their own community — sharing their experience and insight, as well as the proceeds of product sales, with youth in Toronto. We are excited to continue to share in Hope Blooms' growth, and feel lucky to be a part of their success. Our own colleagues have been inspired and energized by these young people, and the partnership is a way for us to showcase our commitment to raising food lovers in communities right across the country."

In addition to supporting the scholarship program and children's food garden programs, $1 from each sale of Hope Blooms dressings and teas at the Loblaws store at Maple Leaf Gardens will go 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 Hope Blooms' success.

"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," said Hope Blooms founder and Executive Director Jessie Jollymore. "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. Our partnership with the Loblaws store at Maple Leaf Gardens is making this possible, and we hope that Torontonians will embrace the opportunity to support our efforts to help inspire children and youth to be change-makers in their own community and beyond."