Story by Brianna Bell

Photography by Daniel Bell

In a 175-year-old church building, in the heart of Downtown Guelph, a smiling man exits through a cheery red door holding a bag of groceries. He has just selected his groceries at HOPE House’s Food Market, a choice-based, points-based program that acts as a short term poverty alleviation service.

HOPE House is a non-profit organization located in Guelph, Ontario, a city that 120,000 people call home, about 1 hour west of Toronto. It is creating positive change in the lives of many, with its intentional programming that aims to provide both short term and long term poverty alleviation, while providing their clients with quality services. In 2012, HOPE House was launched with the mindset that poverty, food insecurity, inequality, health, and community are all interconnected. Their programming and services look at all these connections, and provide choice and dignity to their clients.

I learned about HOPE House shortly after moving to Guelph in September 2013. My husband had found a job in the city, and we navigated the foreign streets and businesses the first few months, with little knowledge of the rich history and culture of one of the happiest cities in Canada. When we learned about the powerful and life-altering work that HOPE House was doing, even in its infancy, we were instantly moved by the project. Additionally, this organization is affiliated with Lakeside Church, which happens to be where my husband works.

From the HOPE Stylin’ hair salon, a Food Market that offers fresh local produce, and the EDU Kitchen, which educates and empowers clients to learn how to cook healthy and nutritious meals, HOPE House is offering a new way of doing things as a non-profit organization. Perhaps one of their most well known services throughout the community is the Food Market, which operates more like a grocery store than a food bank. “How big your family is determines how many points you get. You learn how to budget your points and create meals on a budget,” said Victoria Kinlin-Hynes, Development Director of HOPE House. Clients shop for their groceries at a leisurely and relaxed pace, choosing from a variety of options, from fresh local produce, to staples like peanut butter, bread, and cereal, and ethnic cooking products donated by local stores.

Fresh produce will often have a recipe card that clients can take, which will help guide them in preparing foods like squash, or even providing cooking tips for the microwave. Victoria added that many of their clients do not have access to a full size kitchen, and may only have a microwave and hot plate. Encouraging clients to try new foods, especially fresh foods, while empowering them to use the resources they have is important and valuable to their dignity.

The Food Market fits within HOPE House’s short term poverty alleviation goals. Guelphites that need access to good nutritious food are able to do so in a dignified environment that advocates for choice as a stepping stone to reducing poverty. Bob Moore, Interim Director of HOPE House believes that local food is a key ingredient to those living in poverty. “Local food is important for those living in poverty because local food is good for everyone. Our culture’s practice of importing food from all over the world makes food more expensive because you are buying food plus transportation. The poor barely have enough money for food, but seldom have enough for food plus transportation. Stores give more and more of their shelf space over to imported foods, where the higher profits are, and the poor feel the pressure to buy imported food that they can’t afford,” said Moore.


Follow The Good Local on Instagram.

Brianna Bell is a Guelph-based writer, where she lives with her husband and two children. You can find her work in The Globe & Mail, the Guelph Mercury, GuelphToday and Chicken Soup for the Soul. She enjoys writing about alternative lifestyles and meeting people who are making an impact in their community. You can connect with Brianna through e-mail at
Daniel Bell is a Guelph-based freelance photographer who enjoys the outdoors, spending time with family, and reading.