A 'free' supermarket? His pay-what-you-feel restaurants prove the model is sustainable.

What if you could walk into a store, take what you need, and pay whatever you want for it?

And what if you could help others and save food waste by doing so?

That’s the premise behind The Inconvenience Store, a unique supermarket that opened in June 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. The store collects produce that stores plan to throw away because it’s not fresh (or pretty) enough to sell and "sells" it by donation.


It receives throwaways from a local bakery — breads that aren't good enough to sell but are still perfectly edible — for its patrons to take home. Other things that stores are prepared to toss, like items that are dented or just past their best-before dates, also stock the store's shelves.

There are no cashiers and no set prices — a contribution box sits near the exit as an unassuming invitation to give what you can in exchange for what you take. People can also volunteer at the store as a form of payment and support for the store.

Sounds like do-gooder, people-before-profit stuff, right? It is.

And the founder has already proven that the model works.

The Inconvenience Store is an offshoot of Lentil As Anything, a chain of vegetarian restaurants that has been in operation for 18 years under a similar pay-as-you-feel model.

Founded by Shanaka Fernando, a Sri Lankan immigrant with a passion for food and social justice, Lentil As Anything is on a mission to make meals that serve everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status.

"Restaurant culture separates us from the group at the next table," says the company's website, "and finances separate some from the table entirely. Lentil as Anything believes everyone deserves a place at the table."

Like the store, most of the people who work at the restaurants are volunteers who donate their time because they care about food, culture, and community.

"The underemployed, the homeless, refugees and the disenfranchised are all given an equal opportunity to gain skills and help their fellow humans at Lentil as Anything," says the website.

With no set prices on the menu, diners choose what they pay for their meals based on what they can afford or what they think is a fair price. Key staff are paid, but there's no goal to make a profit. Produce for the restaurants is grown in community urban gardens or collected from stores prior to being thrown away. All extra funds get funneled back into the restaurant.

Fernando has created a community-oriented business model based on integrity, trust, honesty, and shared humanity.

Practically everything about Lentil as Anything and The Inconvenience Store flies in the face of the traditional, profit-based business model.

So how do they stay in business? A question like that has to be asked with the business's goal in mind — not to make a steep profit but to create a cooperative community based on food and culture sharing. It's not about making money but rather about being able to stay open through community effort.

It comes back to the fundamental belief that we're all in this together.

"We call ourselves the human race, but this is not a race," said Fernando in his 2012 TED Talk. "This is not a competition. I prefer the term 'humankind.' It implies kindness. We share an affinity. There is a richness that awaits us and it relies on us, on our individual sense of leadership, on our ability to embrace, be open to each other. And all the answers to environmentalism, to the improvement of humanity, lies in this."  

Putting people and our planet before profits may not be common, but high fives to Shanaka Fernando for proving that it's possible.

Watch Fernando describe his travels around the world that led him to his pay-as-you-feel model:

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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