Community Project: Lentil as Anything

logoFounded in 2000, community project Lentil as Anything fosters community involvement through volunteerism, kindness and human decency. Providing wholesome, tasty vegetarian fare at ‘pay what you feel’ prices, the project focuses on bringing people together in a warm, friendly space. With its base at the heritage-listed Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne’s inner eastern suburbs, and two satellite operations in Footscray and St. Kilda, the locations are proving as popular as ever. Here I speak to Lentil’s Marketing Consultant Severine Meunier about the project’s achievements, ethos, and outlook for the future.

In your own words, what would you say is the primary goal of Lentil as Anything?

Lentil as Anything is a local not-for-profit organisation that addresses social isolation via “food, culture and community” projects.

We run on a unique financial model that is centred on the values of trust, generosity and respect. We give people from various backgrounds the opportunity to meet, eat out and be social regardless of their financial situation.

We also offer training and support to help re-engage those who are left behind and engage those who are at risk to be.

How do you engage low-income earners in the community?

We engage everyone regardless of their financial situation. We offer a warm and open environment for all with no expectation of what a person has to pay. Our goal is to create an eclectic community, regardless of individual situations.

Lentils has changed a lot over the years. Where do you see the enterprise going in future? Can you give us any news on what the future might hold?

We want to be able to be there for more people by:

– Growing our community and spreading our philosophy and values locally and outside of Melbourne and Australia;

– Developing new initiatives including educational projects and retailing local produce to support local enterprise and help make high quality products available;

– Ever improving the quality of our restaurants in terms of venue, food and service.

I notice you have a lot of musicians and artists involved. There’s always music scheduled at your Abbotsford location, and plenty of art on the walls. Why do this, and how does engaging the artistic community bring people together?

Culture is one of our main focus (“food, culture, community”). Art is a wonderful way of expressing oneself and bringing people together.

Entertainment and fun are also an essential part of living a healthy life and art is a great medium for it.

We are always on the look out for artists to come and participate in our wonderful open space. If you are interested in participating you can contact Marisa at music@lentilasanything.com.

How can people become involved with Lentils?

There are many ways of getting involved with our community:

– Being a customer and enjoying the community;

– Volunteering at our restaurants;

– Creating a project or participating in an existing project;

– Organising a fundraising;

– Busking at our restaurants;

– Exhibiting at our restaurants.

See founder Shanaka Fernando’s TED talk below. It’s well-worth a look.

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About Susan Munro

Susan in a student, complementary health practitioner and sometime freelance writer specialising in lifestyle, health and entertainment. Despite her rural upbringing, she steadfastly refuses to embrace bull-riding as a hobby and instead enjoys discovering new flavours of coffee and miscellaneous adventures in the urban landscape. Blogs at http://thesalientscript.wordpess.com
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