New vegan bodega LaRayia’s Bodega recently opened in Westlake, CA. Founded by LaRayia Gaston under her nonprofit organization Love Without Reason, the store aims to offer healthier takes on traditional convenience store products at a much lower price point (all items in the store are priced at $5 or less). “I wanted to give everyone access to healthy organic foods [because] not everyone is able to shop at the top-dollar health-food stores,” Gaston told VegNews. “I needed to address that. This is a form of activism—my ode to the Black Panthers (a revolutionary political party formed in the 1960s that emphasized social and political equality).” The bodega also offers homemade vegan meals under $5, with options ranging from Caribbean-style potato coconut soup to jackfruit tacos. “I became vegan at 19 [and] I felt the direct health benefits from healthy eating,” Gaston said. “I wanted to make sure everyone had the option to discover it. Our food changes on a daily basis. We’ve become known for our vegan chili and tater tots.” Gaston’s Love Without Reason also provides vegan meals to people experiencing homelessness on Los Angeles’ Skid Row. The meals are made from food that local grocery stores and restaurants would have otherwise thrown away. Similarly, the bodega receives imperfect fruit for free and many of its packaged snacks are donated, which offset some of the café’s costs. With a goal to expand accessibility to people across the country, Gaston hopes to also support veterans, at-risk youth, and people experiencing homelessness with jobs and job training.
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