Legendary rock icon, Jon Bon Jovi will always hold a special place in musical history. He won us all over with his winning smile, shaggy locks, and soulful anthems like “It’s My Life,” “Always” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” As the frontman for one of the most popular pop-rock bands on the planet, Bon Jovi, he slayed every stage. And this soulful rocker has definitely got soul. Jon has announced the launch of his third soulful community kitchen.
A few years ago, Jon established the Jon Bon Jovi foundation. And one of the key initiatives on the agenda was to open the first flagship non-profit Community Restaurant, called JBJ Soul Kitchen. The soup kitchens offer hot, healthy, and nutritious meals to those in need. The goal is to provide a warm, welcoming, homely, and “no judgment” community environment too. So, now that Jon is branching out, let’s delve into the real story behind these soulful kitchens.
The Story of JBJ Soul Kitchen
When Jon first established The Jon Bon Jovi foundation, his mission was to rebuild “pride in one’s self and one’s community – one soul at a time.” The foundation’s goal was to make a difference and break the poverty cycle, through affordable housing initiatives, and numerous community projects.
In 2011, the foundation decided to address the problem of food insecurity too. So they branched into soup kitchens. The first community kitchen was unveiled in Red Bank, New Jersey to provide individuals and families with nutritious, and farm-to-table meals. They also want to instill a feeling of pride and dignity, by providing a welcoming, community restaurant vibe.
An Eye-Opening Project
Bon Jovi teamed with his wife Dorothea Hurley on the initiative, and it turned out to be an eye-opener for both of them. Dorothea revealed, “Hunger doesn’t look like what your mind’s eye might imagine.” She added, “It’s the people at your church. It’s the kids that go to school with your kids.”
Jon and Dorothea also realized that there is a social stigma attached to homelessness and poverty and it’s still very much a taboo topic. So Dorothea disclosed how, “I think that was eye-opening for a lot of the community here that said, ‘Oh, there’s no homeless people here.'” So, this is why they placed so much emphasis on the “no judgment” environment.
An Empowering Price List
The menu is designed to cater to all tastes and offers a range of wholesome, nutritious and farm-sourced dishes. However, unlike other restaurants, there are no overpriced dishes. That’s because there are no prices on the menu at all. Instead, diners have a choice. They can choose to contribute a little cash. Then they are encouraged to pay it forward by paying for another diner’s dish.
If this isn’t an option, then they are encouraged to volunteer in the kitchen. While we’re on the subject of volunteering, The JBJ Soul Kitchen also runs as Employment and Empowerment Team to provide these kitchen volunteers with employment advice and coaching.
Feeding The Students
The initiative has been more successful than they could have ever imagined, with over 100,000 meals dished out and tons of feel-good kitchen stories. So they decided to branch out, and the third outlet is in a much more unique setting. It’s being opened right in the heart of the Rutgers University campus. The motivation behind the latest outlet is to feed students on campus, who also struggle to pay for nutritious meals.
Jon said, “We all think it’s a rite of passage to study hard and eat ramen noodles. How about if it’s the only thing you can afford?” Jon also gets stuck in himself on ground level too and often volunteers in the kitchens he opens. And while all these diners are happily fed, he gets a sense of “fulfillment” out of his philanthropic efforts. So, we’re pretty sure Jon has plenty of soulful soup kitchens and community initiatives in the pipeline.