New Jersey is so lucky to have two of this nation’s most prolific rock stars… Bruce Springsteen and John Bon Jovi; both living in New Jersey, both great humanitarians. Bon Jovi is on a mission to fight hunger using the concept of what is known as a collective or community kitchen now in two cities: Red Bank and Tom Rivers. Through the Bon Jovi Foundation, he has established the JBJ Soul Kitchen restaurant… a very cool place to have a meal.
I recently was visiting my friends, Lisa and Ron for the weekend in Long Branch, New Jersey when we decided to drive to Red Bank to experience the JBJ Soul Kitchen, which re-opened for lunch post pandemic. Red Bank is a quaint town of 13,000 residents with a healthy business district and its fair share of well-known arts and cultural destination events. It has a charming train station you can get to from Newark or Secaucus and if you are coming from NYC, there is Ferry ride about 10 minutes from the town. There’s plenty of retail shopping, restaurants, and eateries to make it worth a day trip.
If by chance you are in the area, please do stop for lunch or dinner at JBJ Soul Kitchen. Here’s Why?
For $20 you get to enjoy a full course meal of farm to table cuisine prepared by volunteer chefs. In fact, the entire restaurant is run by volunteers. Meals are free for those who are hungry and are experiencing financial stress.
Once an auto body repair shop, this place has been restored to a lovely, cozy, charming restaurant with a delightful herb and vegetable garden. Diners are asked to pay a $20 donation to cover theirs and someone else’s meals. Families and individuals who are struggling can come to eat and are given help to get them back on their feet.
Besides the meals, JBJ Soul kitchen also sells merchandise and several prepared food products under the label “Hope is Delicious” (I highly recommend the honey cinnamon). The staff are friendly and willing to talk about how the program works.
Food insecurity is not the only thing that Bon Jovi is seeking to change. His foundation (Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation) has supported over 700 units of affordable and supportive housing and a host of other programs that help families and individuals access food, job training and resources to end hunger and homelessness. Its mission statement is “Rebuilding pride in one’s self and one’s community—One SOUL at a time,” (Gotta to love it!)
The pandemic has forced many to seek soup kitchens, community kitchens and food pantries to stretch their household budgets or benefits. These charitable programs are more than just a helping hand. They are newfound communities that further strengthen small towns and cities. It is one thing to distribute food, quite different from learning and engaging with folks who have fallen on hard times and just need a bit of empathy and support from their community.
If you’re ever in the area, I encourage you to go by there for a hearty feel good meal and support this worthy cause. Maybe even volunteer or learn on how to start one in your community. Can’t guarantee you will catch a glimpse of Bon Jovi but his spirit will definitely be there.
For more information or to donate to the foundation, click here
The photos are only of the Red Bank restaurant.
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