Black-owned Compton Vegan—a California-based business serving up plant-based soul food—recently launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to open a brick-and-mortar location in Compton, CA. Founded and operated by Lemel Durrah, Compton Vegan first launched in 2017 out of Durrah’s apartment kitchen to provide a healthier alternative to the readily available, unhealthy fast foods prominent throughout Compton.
Located in South Central Los Angeles—a region of 1.3 million people and only 60 full-service grocery stores according to the Compton Chamber of Commerce—Compton is recognized as a food desert due to the lack of healthy food options. Durrah, born and raised in the South LA city, is working to change this. “Bringing vegan food to the city of Compton means the world to me—it’s literally why I exist,” Durrah told VegNews. “It means taking a step towards breaking generational curses. It means providing an alternative to assist with helping to lower the risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. It means taking steps towards providing a better future for myself, my family, and my community.”
Currently operating as Compton Vegan Express inside of West Los Angeles-based Colony, an innovative community kitchen that houses 25 individual food brands and provides personalized kitchen space, Durrah grows fresh ingredients in a previously vacant lot that he transformed into a community garden.
Compton Vegan’s menu features items designed to present patrons with veganized versions of comfort food favorites such as BBQ Jackfruit Ribz (jackfruit-based ribs served with a side of cashew-based macaroni and cheese, collard greens, baked beans, and cornbread); Buffalo Chik’n Mac (a bowl of cashew-based mac and cheese topped with seitan-based chicken and vegan ranch); and Gumbo (a classic take on the Southern dish served with vegan shrimp, chik’n sausage, onions, fire-roasted tomatoes, and bell peppers served with a side of rice). During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, food is available for order and delivery through the Colony website and the Compton Vegan Instagram page.
Durrah hopes to raise $300,000 to continue operating Compton Vegan Express, launch a food truck, and open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Compton—where Durrah aims to offer lower prices, grab-and-go meals, additional smoothie flavors, a farm-to-table model with locally grown produce, and launch Compton Vegan Coffee Company.