Thanks to a certain megastar from the Garden State, no one needs to go hungry if they live near Red Bank, New Jersey.
JBJ Soul Kitchen, a community restaurant and program created by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, was designed to ensure that everyone has access to a nutritious and delicious hot meal.
Unlike your standard restaurant, the JBJ Soul Kitchen is an eatery with a mission. You won’t find any prices listed on the menu. To dine in, you have two options. Either you can make a donation, or you can volunteer. One hour of work cooking, washing dishes, busing tables, or waitressing earns anyone a three-course meal. To cover a meal with cash, a $10 donation can be made, or more if the diner wants to help cover the cost of others.
That hour of work or donation will buy you a soup or salad, an entrée of your choice, and a freshly baked dessert, all made with fresh, local and, when available, organic ingredients. As it’s a restaurant in New Jersey, we’re betting that fresh corn and tomatoes will be on the menu this summer. (Seriously, those N.J. tomatoes are heavenly.)
What inspired the singer to open such a unique establishment? Bon Jovi told The Daily Beast back when JBJ Soul Kitchen first opened, “One in six people in America are suffering at night and going to bed hungry, and one in five families live at or below the poverty line.”
“What this restaurant is truly meant to do is empower. You don’t come in here with a sense of entitlement. You come in here and volunteer because we need your help.”
The purpose of JBJ Soul Kitchen isn’t just to feed the body. It’s also built to nourish the community. As they say on their website, “Friendship is our daily special.” That means that when you are seated, you may not know the person eating next to you or across from you, but you’re encouraged to introduce yourself to the other diners and build relationships with your neighbors.
Just last year, JBJ Soul Kitchen served 11,500 meals, meeting its goal to reach a 50/50 split. Half of the people who come in pay with a donation, and the other half are in-need customers who volunteer to earn their meal.
The restaurant hopes that by having those who can afford a meal and those who can’t dine together, people will see what hunger looks like, and be motivated to help make a real dent in the issue by advocating for change.
And now, the effort has expanded to reach even more of New Jersey. The JBJ Soul Kitchen saw the good work being done by Spoon Full of Hope in Monmouth County, especially as it was serving a community that had been hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Spoon Full of Hope, a non-profit community restaurant and outreach program of Gateway Church of Christ, closed last summer due to a lack of funding, but was reopened in January thanks to sponsorship from The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. The restaurants works on the same model as JBJ Soul Kitchen and has been serving around 70 meals per night.
“Union Beach, like so many other hard-hit communities in our area, is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy,” said Bon Jovi, in announcing his foundation's support. “We recognize that by supporting Spoon Full of Hope, we are not only providing families with a hot, nutritious meal in a warm, welcoming setting but also providing hope to those who are still rebuilding their lives.”
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