Love Without Reason: A Bodega with a Mission

Venus Nari from LunchOnMe recently sat down with us to discuss her mission at this wonderful vegan bodega in Los Angeles. After reading about them, I am sure you will want to get involved somehow. You can get involved if you are not local as well. Rest assured, you will be inspired to do more in your community. Its cool to be kind!

Message from - LaRayia Gaston
the Executive Director and Founder

Lunch On Me isn't just about food. We are a Los Angeles based non profit dedicated to ending starvation while providing opportunities to enrich the mind, body and spirit of LA's homeless community. 

LOM Brings nutritious and organic meals to skid row six days a week, every week and no reaches 10,000 people a month. We redistribute organic food that would otherwise be wasted in order to create delicious and quality meals. 

Our initiatives also include yoga classes, community parties and healing gatherings for women. We believe that radical self-love is the foundation for permanent healing. 

"We are revolutionizing unity and empowerment for those who are broken and in search for hope. We are using our light to shine on the often invisible."

They choose love to redirect pain. The founder realized when visiting people on skid row, they felt they were used to being replaced. They asked themselves: How can we build wellness on foundation that is broken? That is how Lunch on me was born. 

Glass bottles hold cardamom-scented almond milk coffee drinks and freshly squeezed green juices. Customers can buy plates of warm jackfruit tacos topped with diced mango and cilantro. Chic potted plants are on floating shelves, crystals and candles for sale, and in the back, a large, brightly colored wall of fake flowers, perfect for an Instagram photo shoot. All of the food is $5 or less, and the bodega will eventually provide job training as well as employment opportunities for veterans and the homeless. Everything (except T-shirts, crystals and candles) costs between $1 and $5. The founder said healthy food didn't need to be expensive. She's made it available for everyone-- regardless of class and status. 

10,000 vegan meals a month are served to homeless communities in skid row, Venice, Watts and Compton. When Gaston first moved to Los Angeles five years ago,  she was struck by the scale of poverty on Skid Row, and by the racial demographics of the city’s homeless population. (Skid Row’s inhabitants are 58 percent black and 25 percent Latino, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority; Los Angeles County is 9 percent black and 49 percent Latino, according to recent Census Bureau data.)

One Saturday a month, she organizes a block party for inhabitants of skid row, where they can grab a plate of salad and vegan mac and cheese, do yoga, get their hair cut. Gaston offsets the shop’s low prices by persuading companies to donate products — Revive Kombucha, La Colombe coffee, Nature’s Path Foods and Love Crunch cereal have donated items. She sells fruit contributed by stores that would otherwise throw it out for being “imperfect” — two pears, two apples or two oranges are $1. She uses donated cans of beans, packets of tortillas and boxes of pasta and rice to whip together meals.

If you would like to donate or get involved, visit 2713 W. 6th St., Westlake. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to midnight.

Or contact: 818-357-9114 Lunchonmechallenge@gmail.com

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