Customers at Lentil as Anything restaurants can choose to pay whatever they want for their meal. The anonymous payment system can lead to generous donations, but is also open to exploitation. And dwindling donations at the Footscray location could see it close within the next month.
“We just can’t afford to operate on such low numbers, they have to improve,” says Renae Greer Burt, Lentil as Anything’s Footscray manager. “The food isn’t free, we’re exchanging it for a contribution of some sort”.
In an attempt to save the venue, the team has started a GoFundMe page. As an example, they note that on February 27 the Footscray venue plated up 115 dishes and made back a total of $148.60, clearly an untenable situation.
Lentil’s Footscray outpost is vitally important to the local community. “Being in the West there is more need,” says Burt. Those who rely on Lentil’s services the most would be denied an important lifeline.
Customers aren’t the only beneficiaries. Volunteers are predominantly made up of asylum seekers, refugees and those in need, who increase their employability with valuable industry experience.
“We go beyond feeding the poor, we bring people together and provide a safe space where everyone can feel welcome,” says Burt.
The $3000 preliminary goal set for the GoFundMe page was surpassed in just over a week and extended to $5000. Lentil is also hosting a fundraiser at the Footscray location on March 26. Local acts will soundtrack a day filled with vegan snacks, while (hopefully) seeing sizeable donations being made too. “Every little bit helps and we love seeing new faces,” says Burt.
Despite current financial difficulties, she remains optimistic. “Things are only getting better and, if we stay open, with the community behind us, there are some really exciting things in our future”.