Community comes to the rescue of Lentil as Anything
5 October 2020 at 5:35 pm
The vegetarian pay-as-you-feel restaurant chain raised more than $150,000 in just four days
For over 20 years, Lentil as Anything restaurants have provided a safe-haven for those in need of a hearty and healthy meal, even when they can’t afford it.
But at the end of September the social enterprise, which operates on a pay-as-you-feel basis, was the one asking the community for help, launching a GoFundMe page to save the business from complete financial collapse.
Despite being forced to close its four Melbourne and Sydney restaurants during the outbreak of COVID-19, the enterprise refused to step away from its pay-as-you-feel model, and even stepped up operations, providing up to 2,000 free meals a week as part of food relief programs.
But combined with money shortfalls and large historic debt, the organisation could not keep up.
“The last six months have seen us serving predominantly those most in need, and therefore least able to make a purely financial contribution,” the GoFundMe page said.
“Fixed costs like rent and utilities are causing us to go backwards financially, while pre-COVID expenses remain largely unpaid.”
The community comes to the rescue
Just four days after the campaign was launched, the enterprise hit its goal of $150,000.
Paula Gomez, Lentil as Anything member, told Pro Bono News that while the organisation always believed in the community to back them, reaching the target that quickly was something they never expected.
“We have always believed in the community because without our community we are nothing,” Gomez said.
“Obviously we did receive messages from people saying that we weren’t going to raise that kind of money, but we are so delighted that our community is there for us.”
The initial amount raised has lifted the enterprise out of its immediate financial emergency, and the campaign target has changed to $300,000 to help the organisation continue its food relief programs and keep on top of ongoing expenses.
Finding strength in different places
Gomez said that while COVID-19 definitely hasn’t made the organisation financially stronger, it has opened the organisation up to connect with the community in a way it hadn’t previously.
“It’s really reinforced that Lentil is not just here as a cool vegan restaurant, it’s a place that is feeding people even outside the restaurant with these programs,” she said.
“I really think it’s proved we are more relevant than ever before.”
She added that there was never a more important time for organisations such as Lentil as Anything to be there for the community, particularly when the crisis would be ongoing for some time.
“Even when we are allowed to open back up, Australia is going into recession, so the crisis is far from over,” she said.
The crowdfunder will come to a final close at the end of October, and Gomez said she is once again optimistic the community will pull through in its support.
“We have to stay optimistic, because if we aren’t, where are we going to go?” she said.