Lentil As Anything has been a staple in St Kilda since 2000, when founder Shanaka Fernando opened the first in a series of restaurants that will provide meals to the hungry, using a payment system where patrons can pay via gifts of labour, skills or “pay as you feel”.
Since then, the business has multiplied, with restaurants in Abbotsford, Thornbury, and Newtown in Sydney's inner-west.
However, the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown in Melbourne has taken its toll, and the business is now apparently on the verge of closure. A link to a Go Fund Me, created by 'Lentilian Anonymous', has popped up on the Lentil As Anything website. The fundraiser aims to reach $150,000 in support for the business by the end of October.
"Over the past six months we have been able to feed thousands of people in need – through our restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney, and various food relief projects. We refuse to step away from our pay-as-you-feel concept that defines us. However, along with serious monetary shortfalls and large historic debt, we cannot keep up."
According to the Go Fund Me page, having three of the four Melbourne restaurants in lockdown has seen the business go "backwards financially", as they continued to support those in need.
Lentil As Anything created Together As Anything during COVID, a delivery service modelled on the same principles as the restaurants. While they say suppliers generously suspended debt accrued pre-COVID, ongoing rental and utility costs "remain largely unpaid".
At the time of writing, the fundraiser was up to $123,000. If you would like to support Lentil As Anything, the Go Fund Me is linked via their site here.