When Jon Bon Jovi and his wife, Dorothea, opened the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, NJ in 2011, its mission was to address issues of food insecurity while allowing diners the dignity of a meal without judgment.
On Tuesday (May 10), the Bon Jovis expanded their dream with the grand opening of a second Soul Kitchen in Toms River in New Jersey. The restaurant — which offers a SoHo-like dining experience with a nutritious upscale fare and no prices listed on the menu — is part of the new B.E.A.T. Center offering families and individuals in need a place for food, job training, and resources to get back on their feet.
“This location being even larger, we are going to have an even greater impact on the community of Toms River,” Bon Jovi told guests at a press conference. “Our mission has always been to affect positive change and address the issues of hunger and homelessness. We are expanding our mission with a network of partners and resources to meet the needs of the community of Toms River.”
The JBJ Soul Kitchen is a “Pay it Forward” community restaurant that serves an in-need and paying customer. Those in-need can earn a dining certificate by volunteering at the restaurant. Paying diners directly effect change by purchasing a Pay it Forward certificate. By paying $20 or more they defray the cost of an in-need meal.
Bon Jovi explained that diners can “pay it forward for not only your meal, but someone else’s meal.” There are also volunteering opportunities for those who want to “earn their meal”.
The B.E.A.T. Center is a one-stop shop partnered with The Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties and The Peoples Pantry, serving as both a location for food distribution, a kitchen for at-risk children in after school programs, access to SNAP, healthcare, free tax preparation, a supermarket styled pantry, and a culinary program where its students can earn internship credit towards a career in the food industry.
“They absolutely will, which I think looks pretty good on a resume,” said Bon Jovi.
The center is the latest in the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation’s continuing mission to assist families in economic despair. The foundation has built over 500 units of affordable housing and shelter in 10 states for thousands of people who are low income or formerly homeless. Bon Jovi said the Red Bank Soul Kitchen is close to serving its 50,000th meal.
The project was made possible through grants from the David Tepper Charitable Foundation, OceanFirst Foundation, The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation as well as donations from ShopRite, Jersey Mike’s and Goya Foods, who will provide 2,200 lbs of food per week.
Congressman Tom Mac Arthur, who was on hand for the ceremony, said the center will help Ocean County’s population, which not only includes those affected by Superstorm Sandy, but senior citizens and working class people who are food insecure.
“Super Storm Sandy brought a lot of focus here in Ocean County to people who are already in need. These are the hardworking blue collar… people who go to work every day but they need to make ends meet,” Bon Jovi said. “The food insecurity was already here, but this just exacerbated it.”
“We were able to take on Red Bank and expand upon it here by bringing in other partners because we already realized in Red Bank that people need to get to other service providers, whether it was The Peoples Pantry, a job opportunities in The Food Bank or culinary training,” he said. “It’s the opportunity to job train so they can take this opportunity and take it into the work week.”
While the center-located at 1769 Hooper Avenue serves the needs of the Ocean County community, Bon Jovi said that he hopes other states will be inspired by the effort to help across the United States.
“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,” he said, adding that it also takes “Sweat, equity…money…and creative thinking” to make a difference.
“For those who aren’t building a restaurant, they can affect change by participating in the model,” he said. “This is a necessity from coast to coast.”