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Choices for Youth helping with food insecurity in N.L.

Choices for Youth participant Adam Smith working at the organization’s production facility in St. John’s.
Choices for Youth participant Adam Smith working at the organization’s production facility in St. John’s. - Submitted

The Co-operators has partnered with Choices for Youth (CFY) to provide funding to help at-risk youth succeed in life.

The partnership also helps bring fresh produce to northern communities.

Project Sucseed sees CFY participants manufacture hydroponic systems, made of recyclable material, for growing produce.

The project not only helps relieve food security issues, as growing produce is particularly challenging in northern communities, but also eliminates the need to transport food over long distances, reducing the environmental impact.

CFY is a non-profit, charitable, community-based agency that provides housing and lifestyle development supports to at-risk and homeless youth in Newfoundland and Labrador. The organization offers innovative programs and social enterprises that help young people secure stable housing, education and employment while fostering independence and promoting mental and physical health.

The funding from The Co-operators ($90,000 over a three-year period) directly supports CFY employment initiatives such as Project Sucseed.

Created by the student-led group Enactus Memorial, the project sees CFY participants manufacture the hydroponic units at Choices production facility in St. John’s.

CFY director of social enterprise, Chelsea MacNeil, said offering employment to vulnerable youth helps them maintain housing and other supports they need to move forward with their lives.

“We’ve produced and fulfilled approximately 2,000 units that have been shipped all over the world,” MacNeil said of the Sucseed initiative.

Units have made their way into communities and classrooms in Newfoundland and Labrador, she said, and units have been shipped as far away as India and Haiti.

Tim Horton’s Canada and The Woodward Group of Companies have supported the project in the past, MacNeil said.

In some communities, she said, residents have multiple units. They’ve grown fresh produce and have sold it back to their local grocery stores.

“That’s really incredible,” MacNeil said.

In a press release about the funding, The Co-operators president and CEO Rob Wesseling said providing meaningful supports for at-risk youth gives young people the opportunity and the tools to improve their individual situations, while helping build stronger, more vibrant communities.

"We're proud to support Choices for Youth and the life-changing work they do with young people across Newfoundland and Labrador,” Wesseling said.

CFY executive director, Sheldon, Pollett said his organization’s goal is to help young people live healthier, more stable lives. One way to do that, he said, is to provide youth with training and employment opportunities.

Pollett said investing in social enterprise helps meet multiple goals.

“For Project Sucseed, we are employing at-risk youth; reducing food insecurity; and reinvesting revenue into programming,” he said.

Through its group of companies, The Co-operators offers home, auto, life, group, travel, commercial and farm insurance, as well as investment products.

In 2017, The Co-operators Foundation Community Economic Development (CED) Funds granted a total of $521,000 to 24 organizations providing economic opportunities to marginalized youth and persons with mental health challenges.

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