‘We think that we have been saved’: Vegan restaurant Lentil As Anything surpasses its initial $150,000 fundraising target to stave off administration

Lentil As Anything
  • Local Australian restaurant Lentil As Anything launched a fundraiser to save it from collapsing into administration.
  • The organisation runs on a ‘pay-as-you-feel’ model and provides a food relief program.
  • In four days, it reached its fundraising target of $150,000 and has since increased its target to $300,000.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

On Friday September 25, the non-profit organisation that runs a group of vegan restaurants across Sydney and Melbourne launched a fundraising campaign to raise $150,000 as a way to prevent its collapse into administration.

First launched in St Kilda 20 years ago, Lentil as Anything restaurants operate under a “pay-as-you-feel” model. “It doesn’t matter how much you have in your pocket, you’re welcome to come and eat,” Lentil As Anything member Paula Gomez told Business Insider Australia.

The organisation has since opened restaurants in Abbotsford and Thornbury in Melbourne, and in the suburb of Newtown in Sydney.

Gomez explained that the organisation had been vegetarian but switched to being vegan around two and a half years ago. “The reason why we took the step to being vegan is because it’s the most inclusive meal that you can have,” she said.

In addition to its restaurants, Lentil As Anything has a food relief program where it serves between 1,500 to 2000 people a week. It also has an Inconvenience Store stocked with food rescued from going to landfill that uses the pay-as-you-feel model.

As the onset of the coronavirus pandemic caused strict lockdowns in Melbourne, Lentil As Anything found it challenging to continue operating and sought to raise $150,000 through a Go Fund Me page.

“With three of our restaurants in Melbourne [in] lockdown, and many unable to even come to our restaurants, the last six months have seen us serving predominantly those most in need, and therefore least able to make a purely financial contribution,” the Go Fund Me page said. “Fixed costs like rent and utilities are causing us to go backwards financially, while pre-COVID expenses remain largely unpaid.”

Gomez told Business Insider Australia the online fundraising page was chosen to provide more transparency over where the funds are going.

To our beautiful community: we need your help to keep Lentil alive.Lentil As Anything is facing its biggest financial…

Posted by Lentil As Anything on Friday, September 25, 2020

The campaign was so popular that within four days, the organisation reached its target. At the time of writing, Lentil As Anything has raised more than $167,000.

“It’s amazing,” Gomez said in response to the amount that has been donated so far. “It’s something that we wouldn’t have expected in a million years.”

“We love the community. We always feel that the community supports us in any way they can [by] coming and eating or talking to friends about it.”

Funds have been coming from outside Australia as well.

“Past volunteers of Lentil that are living all around the world have been sharing it and support it and it’s just amazing,” Gomez added.

At this rate, it looks like the organisation could be saved from administration.

“We think that we have been saved from administration but we are going to keep an eye open just in case. You never know,” Gomez said, especially as Melbourne is still in lockdown.

Lentil As Anything has since increased its target to $300,000 to assist with its ongoing expenses like rent and utilities.

“We asked for the minimum [amount] that we needed,” Gomez said. “The community really wants us to stay. If we get a little bit more we can increase more things – we can keep on with this food relief program that is helping so many people.”

Image: Lentil As Anything

Navigating through COVID

Lentil As Anything has been providing food relief through pop ups in Fawkner and Carlton. While its Abbotsford location is closed, pickup and takeaway is available at Lentil As Anything in Thornbury and St Kilda. The organisation has also been supporting people who live in public housing and international students facing tough circumstances.

Most of the people who work at Lentil As Anything are volunteers, while some, like the main chefs, are currently being supported by JobKeeper.

ThoughLentil As Anything has been criticised for using Work for the Dole participants, Gomez said the restaurant is not utilising workers from the program currently.

As restaurants around Australia wait for the days when they can fully open their doors to customers, Lentil As Anything wants to continue supporting the community.

“The community grows every day and grows in so many different ways,” Gomez said. “So we are focusing on opening the restaurants and keeping the food relief program alive for as long as society needs it.”

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