Moss Café Helps Grow the Community

A typical latte and tea at the local Moss Café located on Johnson Ave. MOSSCAFE/COURTESY

By, Brooke DellaRocco, Staff Writer

This hole-in-the-wall café stands a few blocks away from the campus of Manhattan College with inviting staff and a menu consisting of completely housemade and self-grown ingredients. Not only does Moss Cafe prioritize their menu, the local spot also strives to give back to its community. 

Moss Cafe holds monthly fundraisers to support local organizations and promote sustainability in the community. 

Recently, the restaurant has partnered with the Outer Seed Shadow (OSS) Project in hopes of raising awareness for climate change and encouraging sustainable practices. All month, Moss Café will be taking donations in which 100% of the proceeds go to the OSS Project.

The OSS Project is an initiative organized by Juanli Carrión and Jacki Fischer, in order to empower and transform communities by constructing and creating gardens. Fischer originally came up with the idea back in 2016, partnering with Carrión, an artist and assistant professor of art and design making at The New School, in hopes to establish their first garden. 

Through the OSS Project, the pair are able to not only create a safe space for the community, but to also educate others about the importance of environmental awareness. In 2017, the OSS Project decided to transform into a non-profit organization, and have been progressing and expanding since. 

By developing such a sustainable and logical concept, many people have connected on a personal level to these environmental advancements being made in the community.

“This comes from my own personal experience growing up and noticing how much ecosystems in nature reflect human behavior and how much we can use the systems that nature puts together and observe them and use them as platforms or ways to work with people and with communities to address the issues there,” Carrión told The Quadrangle. 

When asked about their partnership with Moss Café over on Johnson Ave, Carrión and Fischer had nothing but positive attributes to describe.

“They’re very community oriented and people oriented,” Fischer said. “Even in the way they grow their food for the restaurant and where they purchase it from. They became aware of us and followed us and approached us to give us the opportunity for fundraising based on their approval of how we work on the project.”

The two said donations are always welcome and are necessary for the program’s success. According to the organizers, $25 is enough to buy the seeds and supplies for some of these gardens, which furthers the idea that anyone can help out with this initiative. Fischer mentioned that Manhattan College students have volunteered for the organization in the past, and expressed her gratitude for the aid of the college. 

Tess Watts, Director of Community Outreach for Moss Café, and former Jasper, expressed her respect and excitement about the café’s mission.

 “We’re a restaurant and café first and foremost, we do catering and all that, but really, we want to try to use our capital and our privilege, or pull through the community that we already exist in, to really promote local food systems,” Watts said. 

Watts told The Quadrangle that one of the café’s biggest impacts on the community is their ability to work through a direct impact model, trying to distribute food and resources directly to the community. Watts also mentioned The Community Impact report and the Café’s accomplishment to hit over $11,000 worth of food donations to community fridges and a postpartum meal sponsorship. 

Ashe Birthing Services and The Birthing Place have ongoing partnerships with Moss 

Café, allowing them to supply 17 weeks worth of meals in 2022. Other examples of long-term and past partnerships are the Friendly Fridges in the Bronx, Riverdale Neighborhood House and Kingsbridge Heights Community Center. 

In the past year, Moss Café has fundraised over $2,900 for local community programs and donated over $10,800 revenue to local causes. The café is all around sustainability built, even demonstrating reliable sourcing practices. 

The OSS Project standing near one of the gardens they built. OSSPROJECT/COURTESY

“We try to source from organizations, farms and cooperatives that really care about keeping their employees well,” Watts said. “Caring about the environment, the people, the planet, social good. So, I think that’s probably where we try to make the most impact. Which would never have happened without the support of community organizations and customers.” 

Moss Café is known for their mouth watering feel-good food, but with their positive initiatives and ethical practices students can take the walk up to Johnson Ave. and make a contribution to their community.