Jon Bon Jovi is more than a big-name rock star. The singer-songwriter is also a passionate political activist dedicated to fighting poverty, hunger, and homelessness, specifically in his home state of New Jersey. He even opened up his own restaurant, the JBJ Soul Kitchen, with two locations to serve others from all walks of life and build community while working to break poverty.
Feeding The Soul
Bon Jovi founded his JBJ Soul Foundation in 2006 for his cause. He and his wife Dorothea later opened a restaurant, JBJ Soul Kitchen, where customers are free to pay what they can and eat some great food. JBJ Soul Kitchen has two locations at Toms River and Red Bank in Jersey. At both locations, the restaurant serves up a healthy three-course meal with an appetizer, main course, and dessert. Meal options include vegetarian and vegan options, and the chefs prepare many of the dishes with natural, locally sourced ingredients from the restaurant’s own garden or the JBJ Soul Kitchen Farm. To keep things interesting, the menu changes every 10 days. No reservations are required, but there is a trust system in place. Patrons that can afford to pay for a meal are asked to make a donation of $20. Those who can’t are simply asked to volunteer in the kitchen or the restaurant’s organic garden. In terms of statistics, donations make up 54% of the meals made and volunteering makes up 46%. Diners can also pay it forward by paying for someone else’s meal.
Building The Community
JBJ Soul Kitchen is also dedicated to making everyone feel welcome, fostering a kind community within the restaurant. The restaurant invites all patrons to “introduce yourself to the person seated beside you or across the table.” It also encourages those who want to get involved to volunteer with the restaurant in some capacity. Those looking to volunteer can simply sign up through JBJ Soul Kitchen after attending an hour-long orientation. JBJ Soul Kitchen also has created the Employment & Empowerment Team (EET), which works to help those who are unemployed or underemployed through coaching services. Volunteers with professional experience assist in providing life coaching, job coaching, financial coaching and legal coaching to individuals in the program. The team also provides With at least 15 coaches, this program has led to over 100 job offers for people in the community. The ultimate purpose is to help people grow not only in their career and finances but as overall individuals.
Fighting Against Poverty
Bon Jovi’s foundation has been committed to helping others struggling in this economy for years. In addition to JBJ Soul Kitchen, the JBJ Soul Foundation has provided support for over 600 units of affordable housing in 10 states for families, youth, veterans, and other individuals. The foundation has also partnered with other organizations to create the B.E.A.T Center (Bringing Everyone All Together), a physical place where families and individuals can get food, job training, and other resources. It also works with the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition on a program called NJ Soul of Hunger. The program educates policymakers as well as the public about the very real issue of hunger in New Jersey by sharing stories from those experiencing it first hand. “Our mission has always been to affect positive change and address the issues of hunger and homelessness,” Bon Jovi shared in a 2016 press conference. “This is happening across our nation. When there is 15 percent of children going to be hungry at night in a nation like the United States, these aren’t issues that need a scientist to find a cure.” His hard work, along with his team, is helping to make a major impact in New Jersey and beyond.
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