Charitable Choices: Charles Chiu of Building Roots

Charles Chiu, Director of Development and Communications at Building Roots, sheds light on the organization’s mission to combat food insecurity in Toronto’s Moss Park. Since 2013, their Give-What-You-Can Moss Park Market has been distributing fresh food to over 400 individuals weekly. Charles emphasizes the growing need for affordable fresh food options and systemic solutions to address rising living costs. Readers can contribute by donating on their website and supporting a community member with just $10 a month.

Building Roots

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

Our mission is to improve the individual and collective well-being of people in Toronto’s Moss Park and surrounding communities through programs and services rooted in the growing and sharing of food. We run a give-what-you-can fresh food market out of a shipping container on Queen Street, where we provide over 400 individuals and families with bags of fruits and vegetables every week. We also run a concurrent warm drinks and snacks program, and we are excited to be starting a new community garden in Moss Park this spring. We also have other food, outreach and resource-sharing programs.

What problem does it aim to solve?

There is an ongoing food security and hunger crisis in Toronto, and the high cost of fresh food means many families can’t afford it at all. Also, in the Moss Park area, there are very limited options to even access fresh food. Moss Park is a vibrant community, and we aim to be a hub where community members can gather to connect, be nourished and find support through the sharing of food, conversation and resources.

When did you start/join it?

Our Give-What-You-Can Moss Park Market started in 2013. I joined the organization in February 2023.

What made you want to get involved?

I had been working in the Moss Park neighbourhood for about 5 years by then and got to know the work of Building Roots quite well. I appreciated the immediate food support they provided for community members, as well as the emphasis on building social connections and resilience through fresh food.

What was the situation like when you started?

It wasn’t long since Covid restrictions were lifted when I started. Because of the pandemic and the significant surge in food prices, the number of community members who did not have access to fresh food kept increasing, and our Moss Park Market ramped up the operation to meet the rise in demand. The number of fresh food bags we distribute weekly has increased fourfold from 2021 to now, and the number of folks in need of support continues to grow.

How has it changed since?

Food prices and the cost of living continue to surge, and so does the community’s need for access to fresh food. There are many more folks who could use our programs and services, so we continue to fundraise with the goal of being able to support as many folks as we do now, as well as the hope of raising enough funds to increase the number of people we can support.

Building Roots

What more needs to be done?

While we work to support as many people as we can, there is also a great need to systemically address the surging cost of food and the cost of living crisis, as well as the need for more accessible fresh food options in the Moss Park area.

How can our readers help?

The best way to help is to make a donation on our website.

As little as $10 a month can support a community member with a whole week’s worth of fresh, healthy food through our food bag program.

Do you have any events coming up?

We will have events in the spring and summer; please follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter to be kept in the know!

Where can we follow you?

Website | Instagram

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Equitable Action for Change (EAfC) is an awesome local organization we love. Their mission is to improve the quality of life of black-identifying and marginalized people who face barriers to their daily physical, mental, spiritual, and social well-being through meaningfully engaging community members by providing support to each other from a peer-led support service delivery model.

We work closely with them on events such as sharing circles and have learned so much from their insights and experience.


About Emilea Semancik 88 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to freelance her own pieces and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. She is also a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of recipe books. You can find her recipes on Instagram. @ancestral.foods