TORONTO -- What started out as a “backyard bubble” conversation has turned into a full-time passion project for two Toronto neighbours.

“I like to say that you should never allow two activists to live next to each other, because Uplift Kitchen happens,” says Emily Carson, co-founder of the project. “And it kind of happened so organically that it was like, okay, this is what we do!” 

Carson and her neighbour, Antonia Lawrence, say they created Uplift Kitchen as a way to provide home-cooked meals to families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“We wanted to make sure people could get food while they were sheltering in place,” Lawrence tells CTV News Toronto. “Black and Indigenous and other racialized families are who we are serving, because we recognize them as the most food insecure groups, especially in Toronto.” 

The project began in June, and has since expanded to serve 17 families from Etobicoke to Pickering. Monetary donations are put toward groceries, which Carson collects weekly. Volunteers then help cook and bake meals in their homes. On Fridays, the meals are distributed thanks to volunteer drivers, who make home deliveries. 

“We just started to make sure that we could be able to feed people in the city who needed it, and as we realized the need was growing and growing and growing, we decided you know what, let’s make this a permanent thing,” Lawrence explains.

The co-founders say they wanted Uplift Kitchen to feel less like a foodbank, and more like a family. They work to accommodate food preferences and allergies, and go out of their way to create cultural-specific dishes when requested. 

Uplift Kitchen

“We have a lot of families who are from West Indian or African or Indigenous backgrounds who need certain things. So as best as we can provide for them, we do,” says Lawrence. 

For Lawrence and Carson, the mission of Uplift Kitchen is a personal one. 

“We both come from communities that are disproportionately affected by hunger and police violence and government neglect,” Carson tells CTV News Toronto. “So when the protests started to kick up around here about Black Lives Matter, we were talking and we were like - how do we get involved?” 

“We’ve both experienced food insecurity, so we know that sometimes there’s a lot of shame that comes with food banks,” adds Lawrence. “We wanted to make sure that we are a full community. Everyone that is a part of our community is welcomed as such.” 

In addition to receiving monetary and food donations from the public, Carson and Lawrence say several restaurants have also partnered with them to provide meals or ingredients. 

Uplift Kitchen

Lawrence says she is “very grateful” to the volunteers who are making Uplift Kitchen happen, and that they’ll keep going with the project as long as they can. 

“We’re going to do this ‘til the wheels fall off!” she says. “People just want to help. People just want to support other people. It doesn’t matter who they are, doesn’t matter what they look like or anything else. People are ready to drop and go, and that is such a testament to this city.” 

You can find out more about Uplift Kitchen here.