Nobody deserves to go hungry, but the sad reality is that countless people are so financially troubled that they can’t even pay for their food. To legendary singer Jon Bon Jovi, this heartbreaking fact is something that he just can’t ignore. That’s why he decided to use his resources to make warm meals accessible to the needy!
The 57-year-old philanthropist, together with his wife Dorothea Hurley, opened the first branch of JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank in 2011. Five years later, they opened a second location in Toms River. And because of the success of his restaurants, Jon will open a third location on the campus of Rutgers University, where the couple aims to feed college students who are struggling to pay for food.
The restaurants are dedicated to helping feed those who are in need. It has no prices in its menu, instead, diners who can pay are urged to make a $20 donation which covers the cost of their meal. For those who can’t, what they can do is help out in the kitchen in exchange for the meal.
“Hunger doesn’t look like what your mind’s eye might imagine,” Jon’s wife Dorothea said in an interview. “It’s the people at your church. It’s the kids that go to school with your kids. And I think that was eye-opening for a lot of the community here that said, ‘Oh, there’s no homeless people here.’”
If you think the food quality might be substandard because some diners get to eat for free, you’re wrong. His restaurants offer garden and farm-to-table meals served in three courses. Diners start with a soup or salad appetizer, then choose among a fish, meat, or vegetarian entrée.
Each patron’s dining experience ends sweetly with a freshly-made dessert. Bon Jovi’s soul kitchens have served over 100,000 meals so far, and it was all made possible by donations and the efforts from volunteers!
“We all think it’s a rite of passage — to study hard and eat ramen noodles,” Jon says. “How about if it’s the only thing you can afford?”
Aside from helping the needy gain access to food, Bon Jovi founded the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation in 2006 “to break the cycle of poverty, hunger, and homelessness”. Through his programs, the singer has helped provide more than 500 affordable homes to the needy across 10 states.
As long as there is a need, the couple will keep opening more JBJ Soul Kitchens in the country. “Most Americans live two paychecks away from problems, and I thought this is something we can do. And most importantly I didn’t need the scientists to find the cure,” he said.