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Excellence in Social Enterprise - North End Community Garden/Hope Blooms

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Published on Oct 7, 2011

In a world where fast food appears to be an inexpensive option for low income families, how do you encourage people to adopt a healthy diet and habits? That is the challenge that faced registered dietician Jessie Jollymore. She knew the important role that nutrition plays in setting kids on the path to a long and successful life, but saw few programs delivering information and assistance on how to eat healthy in North End Halifax. She also recognized that the community lacked programs to engage youth and equip them with the skills and experiences to assume control over their destinies, which meant youth were at risk of getting into conflict with the law. In 2007, she established The North End Community Garden so young people and their families could learn about nutritional choices by growing food in their community. This led to the creation of a social enterprise, Hope Blooms, a salad dressing that the youth produce and sell.

To date, the youth involved in producing Hope Blooms salad dressing have sold 1100 bottles. In fact, demand was strong that Jessie pushed for funding to build the province's first greenhouse. This will allow youth to grow herbs and produce the product year-round. Proceeds from sales of the dressing are being placed in a scholarship fund that all participants can access to pursue their educational goals, and 10% has been earmarked for philanthropic work that will benefit the community. The sense of pride participants experience has been so infectious that the number of youth involved in the project has grown rapidly from nine to forty since it began. Youth participating in the project not only understand the value and fundamentals of making healthy nutritional choices, they are learning entrepreneurial skills that will put them on the path to success in life. Families in the north end of Halifax have also learned that it is easy to grow their own vegetables and eat healthy. And the success of this initiative it has inspired one Black Business Initiative board member to start similar garden projects in Glace Bay and Yarmouth.

Hope Blooms may be the only program of its kind available to inner city youth in Halifax. It is giving young people hands on experience with gardening and running a social enterprise that otherwise would not have been available to them. The business aspect is particularly unique in that participants are transforming the herbs they grow into a marketable product that is in demand. It is teaching a new generation the fundamentals of food security -- availability and access -- but more importantly, youth are learning the importance and fundamentals of how to maintain a healthy diet.

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