Join Us In Our Mission: The Support Our Unhoused Neighbours Campaign

Jeff Bierk of Encampment Support Network (ESN), a group of volunteers who organizes in a grassroots way to bring supplies, awareness, and acts of kindness to folks in the encampments across Toronto says,

“we’re just literally trying to take care of people … and we’re ensuring compassion is paramount,”

(The Star, September, 2020).

ESN, notably not an organization but rather the organized efforts of compassionate neighbours, has been integral in providing folks living in encampments essentials such as toiletries, warm meals, water, ice, sleeping bags, and more.

They connect with local agencies, businesses, and keen individuals to activate a diversity of essential supports, wholly rooted in compassion . Ultimately, permanent housing is needed, and until then, our neighbours in the encampment require support and understanding. 

Thus, Building Roots presents the Support Our Unhoused Neighbours Campaign.

On October 17th, Building Roots worked with ESN to organize “Food with Friends: Moss Park Encampment Action Day,” distributing over 100 warm meals from Tiffinday, with donations from Oh She Glows to folks in the Moss Park Encampment. We also supplied water and fresh fruit. We were truly inspired to see how the community and volunteers pulled together to make a wonderful impact. 

Now, with the help of our friends at Harvey Kalles, we’ve quickly procured funds to provide 100+ sleeping bags and emergency blankets to our unhoused neighbours in the Moss Park Encampment, slated to go out at our next Action Day in November. We know this is necessary as the weather gets cold, and have heard first-hand from folks living in encampments that these supplies will be appreciated and potentially life-saving. Yet we also know that many more supplies are needed still.

If you’re interested and able to donate toward the Support Our Unhoused Neighbours Campaign, supporting the Moss Park Encampment and taking care of those folks in our community who could most use winter warmth, you can do so on our website. Please specify in the message that you would like these funds to be used toward this campaign.

If you’re interested in contributing other forms of support or supplies (such as warm meals, skids or plywood, water, warm clothing), please connect with Hannah at


It’s Time to Connect – Building Roots Brings the Candidates to the Community

On Oct. 19, 2020 Building Roots hosted its Toronto Centre By-Elections Candidates Online Meeting and we couldn’t be more proud of what we crafted.

We were fortunate to have some positive energy from our community partners and support from the outside media to pull it all together.

We wanted to share this inspiring piece by Alastair Sharp of Canada’s National Observer as a great follow-up on the issues we are addressing entitled:

Moss Park residents hear from NDP candidate, new Green leader hoping to fill Morneau’s seat

Full link for the Article follows or click the photo below:

The park that gives the Moss Park neighbourhood its name has housed a tent encampment during the COVID-19 pandemic that has laid bare the lack of government action to help the most vulnerable.

Higgins and others from Building Roots have been hustling to engage low-income residents in the byelection campaign by telling them how and where to vote during the community group’s regular Moss Park Market events.

“They really want to see a community champion in this role,” he said of residents he’s spoken with recently, noting that “getting people to talk about what they care about has helped to grow the awareness and to think about what it is possible to change for the community.”

Also, you can catch the recap video of the entire Toronto Centre By-Elections Candidates Online Meeting on our Youtube channel below

Thank you for all those that tuned in and we are grateful for everyone who watched it afterwards!

For more information on political participation, or, how to vote visit

A Story of Hope: Our Personal Retelling

A personal summary of our experience during the COVID-19 Pandemic as featured in the community newspaper The Bridge earlier this October.

Building Roots has always been committed to cultivating vibrant and resilient communities. COVID-19 put that mission to the test – on March 12, 2020, everything changed. 

Having to think fast, we used past insights and input from the communities we serve and set in motion a slew of new programs and partnerships. 

All programming aimed at three specific goals: providing food for the most vulnerable in our community; offering at-home educational and recreational resources for children, families and seniors in need; and ensuring access to vital information about COVID-19 and government supports that they would not otherwise have received. 

We quickly connected with residents, partner agencies, community leaders and volunteers to achieve these goals. With gratitude, great learning and even greater collaborations, in the first 25 weeks of Community Helping Community, together we accomplished: 

6000+ food bags of fresh and local produce, non-perishable staples, and delicious meals and treats distributed to 300 households;

500+ activity kits procured and distributed to children and families, as well as 1000+ books and colouring books with works of local artists, with a focus on promoting mental health;

200 Veg2Grow Kits for Kids to families in Downtown East Toronto, so children could learn how to grow food safely from their homes; 

25+ socially distanced performances by Black, Indigenous, women, people of colour and LGBTQQIP2SAA+ musical artists and dance performers.  We worked with community members to animate public space so everyone could safely enjoy the summer.

Thank you to everyone who supported us, funded our projects, volunteered, donated or otherwise cheered us on through this incredible show of community spirit the past few months. 

These have not been easy times for anyone … thank you for being part of our story of hope. 

Read our whole Story of Hope at .

Building Roots Through Social Justice

Through this challenging year of the devastating Coronavirus, Building Roots continues to work with the Moss Park community to create a grassroots network of nourishment and compassion. As an organization, we tackle socio economic issues with food justice, music and social justice, and justice for children.

Food Justice 

It all starts with food. Whilst food banks are a lifeline for many, often they mostly provide canned and non-perishable items. We think every human should have the right to chose fresh food. So our pay-what-you-can market of fresh food is for anyone in need.

Music and Social Justice 

Representation matters. Women, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour), and LGBTQQIP2SAA+ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, questioning, queer, intersex, pan-sexual, two-spirit, androgynous or asexual) people are grossly underrepresented in the live and electronic music scenes, despite there being no shortage of great performers. There are as many expressions of music as there are people, and promoter bookings should reflect that. We all deserve the richness and full spectrum of musical experience. To redress the imbalance, Building Roots exclusively books women, BIPOC, and LGBTQQIP2SAA artists and performers for our weekly Mini Social Distance Concert Series.  

Justice for Children 

Children have the right to play, creatively express and access educational and recreational resources. This is why we have created a weekly art zone, and toy/book giveaway for kids.

In a system rife with inequality, injustice and marginalization, it can be difficult to know how to support change. Starting “small” – working with what we find valuable and necessary to maintain social harmony and equity – has shown some success in social empowerment. Starting small can seem insignificant, but to some it is immeasurable. In many cases, it’s best to work at the local level, close enough to hone in on a community’s desires and direct needs.

Article written by Building Roots Market Animator Danielle Collrin, originally for the Moss Park paper the bridge.

Summer Fun at the Moss Park Market

This summer, Moss Park Market will be bustling with fun activities!

Live Music. While large gatherings and indoor concerts are off the table, Building Roots has stepped up by offering a bi-weekly concert series in the beautiful green space outside the Moss Park Market, every other week starting June 27th (weather permitting). The performances will take place 12:00-2:00pm, with an emphasis on cultural diversity. Don’t be surprised to see a variety of circus acts as well! We are thrilled to be able to support artists during this very challenging time, as well as bringing the joy of music and performance art to our community members. 

Fun Zone for Kids. Alongside the live music will be our Fun Zone for Kids. This feature will take place on a weekly basis from 12:00-3:00pm. The Fun Zone is where parents from all over Toronto’s Downtown East can come to pick up educational and recreational resources for kids. This includes a wide variety of books from the Children’s Book Bank, art supplies and creativity kits, outdoor activities such as hula hoops and sporting equipment, and even toy packs sponsored by Pokemon Canada (while supplies last). The Fun Zone will also have an activity area where families can safely enjoy the outdoors this summer and children can play with their new toys.  We will have chalk markings on the grass to encourage social distancing, and volunteers helping to enforce these safety measures. 

Toronto Grown Food. The Moss Park Market will continue with curbside pick-up of fresh food bags which are all pay-what-you-can. We are ensuring everybody has affordable access to fresh food during these financially difficult times, and also that community members most vulnerable do not have to travel far or go to crowded indoor spaces for fresh food. In addition to our fresh food bags containing organically grown food from our very own Urban Farm at Ashbridge Estate, they also contain freshly grown food from a whole community of local growers. Our Growing Meals Together program, designed as a solution to potential overcrowding at our urban farm, has people from all over the city growing food in their backyards and rooftops like the Ryerson Urban Farm, and Carrot Green Roof and contributing the harvests to our food bags. Lastly, we’ve partnered with a few other local farms, making the Moss Park Market one of very few farm stands operating in the city of Toronto. 

The Moss Park Market is open 11:00-4:00pm every Saturday. We are located at 260 Queen St. E, one block east of Sherbourne (Queen and Seaton), across from Kim’s Convenience. 

Growing Meals Together: Help Us Grow for the Moss Park Market

Giving food and sharing meals is the most basic and affirming thing people do; it’s a sign of welcome and hospitality around the world, and opens the way to deeper relations.

What you may not know is that much of the produce at the Moss Park Market is donated by farmers, and some is grown by our own tiny volunteer-powered urban farm in the east end.

In this difficult spring of 2020 we can’t meet over a meal, and that’s a sore loss of fellowship. So we’re inviting you to share a meal in a different way – by growing a little for the market.

We’re looking for 20 people to grow a small plot each, 1m by 2m (3’x6’). It might be beets or beans, cucumbers or carrots or cilantro, tomatoes or hot peppers … you get the idea : )

If you haven’t grown vegetables before, this is your chance to notch up a new skill with support from our gardener. It’s very, very satisfying to see a tiny seed develop into … food for a person to eat.

Building Roots can supply seed, help with suggestions, and post photos of your developing plots. It would be ideal if you can bring the harvest to the market, but we do have capacity to do some of the harvesting too.

If you have grown vegetables before, we’d love you to take on some of the trickier veg – for example, carrots that need a deep soil and constant moisture while they germinate.

To be part of this Growing Meals Together program, please contact us. And if you have friends and neighbours who are gardeners or would like to give this a try, pass the message on to them!

Building Roots In The Time Of COVID-19

With COVID-19, we are working hard to provide food for the most vulnerable in our community right now, and are offering new at-home resources for children, families, and seniors in need.

Building Roots is committed to maintaining the health and safety of our volunteers, workers, and the people we serve. Our Moss Park Market remains open Saturdays at 260 Queen Street East from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. We are no longer letting anyone into the shipping container, but are providing our bags of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as soup from the door. When a line forms, distancing of two meters is in place.

Right now we are also shifting our focus to more at-home resources to provide relief and support to those who need it most. We are delivering food baskets with fresh, nutritious food to seniors, community members living with emotional or mobility barriers, as well as those in self-isolation that have trouble accessing food. These deliveries started on Saturday, March 21. We’ve heard from our deliveries that residents are very thankful for the food right now and are helping neighbours in their building as well. 

We are also providing educational resource and activity kits for families with kids home from school. Books and other resources can be picked up in addition to groceries from the Moss Park Market during regular Saturday hours (11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.), following the same strict social distancing policies.

If you’d like to help, please consider making a donation. 100 percent of your contribution will go towards the cost of our emergency food provisions. You can donate $5.00 for one basket, or any increment of $5.00. For example, $50 provides ten baskets of food. All donations will receive a tax receipt.

If you live in Moss Park and are in need of a food delivery, please send an email to

Thank you for checking in and building deeper roots in our community when it’s needed the most. For more frequent updates, join us on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.

The City of Toronto also has a COVID-19 webpage with the latest public health information.

Lisa Kates and Darcy Higgins,
Founding Partners, Building Roots