Work at CSI for the day with our new Lounge Pass!

Welcoming The People’s Pantry

Lisa Amerongen

Lisa Amerongen

Director of Communications

CSI Annex is very excited to welcome a new member, The People’s Pantry, to its community!

The People’s Pantry is a Toronto-based, grassroots initiative that provides hot meals and grocery care packages to people across the GTA who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Free of charge, no questions asked. They work with local volunteers to cook, package, and deliver meals and grocery care packages safely.

Check out this Q & A we did with two of the group’s co-founders, Jade Da Costa and Yann Gracia.

What brought you to CSI? 

Jade: As a newly founded, volunteer-based, grassroots initiative, we needed a central space to operate from, but we were struggling to find a place that could take us in. CSI generously offered their doors to us and it has made our lives and operation significantly easier as a result. CSI bent over backwards to ensure that we could use their space in a way that was safe for everyone – they found a way to make things work, and to support our efforts as much as they possibly could. As a result, we have been able to reach people in Toronto/the GTA much easier, more safely, and more often, and we sincerely thank CSI for this.

Yann: My partner, Ellie, and I were operating all of this [the grocery bundles] from our living room, we were looking for a bigger space we could operate from, which also would be safer for the process of putting food together, also, all of the money we fundraise goes towards food so we couldn’t afford to rent a space or to get insurance to accept space donations, CSI is such a big and good space to be able to provide more requests in a better organized system

What are you working on right now?

We are a group of people who show up for people who need us to.

We are motivated by an ethic of care and the overarching desire to help marginalized communities, not only live, but thrive, in the wake of rampant food injustice and social/governmental neglect. Our main goal is to bring quality food and grocery essentials to those in Toronto/the GTA who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and in doing this, show these communities the care, beauty, and love that they deserve. Like us, many of these people are Queer and Trans*/Black, Indigenous, People of colour (BIPOC) who face countless systematic barriers to accessing food and other essentials, and whose struggles have merely been augmented by the pandemic. We are doing our part to support these folks through this. We also help sex workers, those living with disabilities or underlying health conditions, the precariously housed, im/migrants, single-parents, working-class and lower-class families, and any and all communities facing financial or social hardship.


Where did you get the idea for your project? Tell us about your (and your project’s) beginnings!

Our project was inspired by a Facebook post that one of our co-founders, Ellie (alongside her partner, Yann), made to the group Caremongering-TO: TO Community Response to COVID19. Ellie posted on the page offering free home-cooked meals to anyone who was in dire need in Toronto. In the following days, all of our admin members started to do the same thing for our respective communities. After a week or two, we banned together to form The People’s Pantry. 

In the last two months, we have gone from the 7 of us cooking and buying food for people we lived near, to hundreds of volunteers cooking and preparing food and groceries for people across Toronto/the GTA.


What is your biggest hope for The People’s Pantry? What does the world look like if all those hopes come true?

Jade: I think our biggest hope is to make the world a more livable and beautiful place for people like us; for those communities who face systematic violence and neglect on a daily basis and who, as a result, not only struggle to feed themselves and their families but are left to feel like they don’t matter. We want to do what we can to let these and other marginalized communities – our friends, our family, our neighbours – know that we care, and to give them the resources they need to survive/thrive in the face of food injustice and the systems of oppression from which such injustice is located and draws strength.

We want to do what we can to keep people, all people, alive, healthy, and happy.  


Want to help The People’s Pantry reach their goals?

Donate to their GoFundMe campaign now.

You can also volunteer with their main hub in Toronto/Brampton/Mississauga or their sister initiative in the Halton region plus Hamilton.

Read more about The People’s Pantry in their Huffington Post piece, follow them on Instagram and Facebook!

Keep Reading
CSI Spadina in the ground floor kitchen, looking out towards the lounge and meeting rooms. In the foreground is a kitchen counter, with waffles, toppings, and glasses of coffees and teas. In the background, CSI CEO Tonya Surman is speaking into a microphone on the left. In the middle and on the right, a variety of people stand and sit, listening to her speak.
One of the keys to CSI's magic is our Community Animator Program (CAP) and, specifically, the Community Animators themselves! Through this program, we've worked with more than 1,000 exceptional individuals who have each brought a little something different, and a little sparkle, to our spaces. And we're so glad to have had them in our community, because we've learned that each and every one of them has some exceptional talents, skills, and experiences to offer the world!  
Third floor lounge of CSI Spadina. In the foreground is a light blue loveseat sofa. In the background, we see two people working separately at coworking desks and tables. On the ceiling is a chandelier; to the right, a progress Pride flag.
The CSI staff team includes Pride veterans, newcomers, and everywhere in between! This year, as we celebrated Pride in our spaces and with our member community, we turned to our staff team to learn what Pride means to them. Some experienced it for the first time this year and were awash in the joy; others delighted in the fact that Pride remains such a fun celebration decades later. Others noted the increasing corporatization, which draws our attention away from the central premise of Pride - a protest.
whai header
CSI is many things - a coworking space, a non-profit organization, and a launchpad - but, first and foremost, we are a community. A community of innovators, of changemakers, of neighbours, of people putting people and planet first. And the awesome work that our members do, each and every day, never ceases to amaze us! So of course, we do our best to highlight our members whenever possible. Recently, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Molly Bannerman, Director of Women HIV/Aids Initiative (WHAI), a community-based response to HIV and AIDS among cis and trans women in Ontario. Below is an edited summary of our chat, where we discussed the work of WHAI and their latest Collective Action Community Change report.
Become A Member