Charity Spotlight – 541 Eatery & Exchange

541 Eatery & Exchange, 541 Barton, Charity Spotlight, Opencity Inc, gregiej,

Buy a button & pay it forward to someone to use, reads the jar on the counter at 541 Eatery & Exchange on Barton in Hamilton. We made a special visit.


541 Eatery & Exchange is a non-profit café on Barton Street East, where you can pay-it-forward by turning dollars into buttons. Anyone can use five buttons from the jar each day as $5 towards a good meal, which not only helps feed those who need help paying but also nurtures a diverse community of belonging around the table.

A community of exchange

541 Eatery & Exchange, 541 Barton, Charity Spotlight, Opencity Inc, gregiej,

“541 Eatery and Exchange is a welcoming cafe in the east end of Hamilton that has a seat at the table for everyone. A dedicated staff team and almost 200 volunteers make all the low priced delicious food, run a vibrant youth outreach program, and also host community events. We have a pay it forward system that uses prepaid buttons – anyone can use up to five buttons (five dollars) a day towards anything on the menu. Come and check us out!,” explains Sue Carr.

541 Eatery & Exchange is a place of exchange; where people can share.  The mission of 541 Barton is to serve their neighbours, but their resilient neighbourhood also has lots to offer and teach.  Many of their regular customers (whether they buy buttons, use buttons, or both!) take turns volunteering behind the counter and in the kitchen.  Everyone has space at large tables, and everyone has something to bring.

541 Eatery & Exchange, 541 Barton, Charity Spotlight, Opencity Inc,

Volunteer staff

541 has a diverse team of over 200 wonderful volunteers. The volunteers work Front of House serving customers and keep the space welcoming. They prep meals and baked goods in the kitchen or washing dishes so that everything else we do is possible. Volunteers use the space and the proceeds from food sales to facilitate educational community initiatives such as a homework club, a youth employment program and other skills training opportunities. Check the website to see their current volunteer needs.

514 Barton is an eatery; offering fresh, homemade meals and baked goods in the heart of Hamilton. We can attest that the food is affordable, nutritious and family-friendly. You can find our review on TripAdvisor gregiej.

Buy a button from home

We encourage you to donate to 541 Eatery and Exchange. To purchase buttons, write for buttons in the message box, and they’ll add some to the jar on our counter.


This is such a fantastic non-profit model we had to go and check it out for ourselves before we wrote about it. The button system only functions when those purchases buttons in addition to your food meet the demand from those in need. If the Use A Button jar runs empty, then there are no buttons for those in need to use. Thank you to Beth Schilthuis from Ancaster for nominating 541 Barton.

541 Eatery & Exchange, 541 Barton, Charity Spotlight, Opencity Inc, gregiej,

Opencity Inc. thinks giving a spotlight to charities is important and one way we can be socially responsible.

Images courtesy of 541 Eatery & Exchange / Compass Point Bible Church.