Jersey rock star and icon Jon Bon Jovi and his wife Dorothea yesterday helped celebrate the grand reopening of JBJ Soul Kitchen, which fights food insecurity on the Rutgers University-Newark campus through donations and volunteer service.
In partnership with Rutgers-Newark (RU-N) and on-campus food service provider Gourmet Dining, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation opened a restaurant on campus in January of 2020, the third since JBJ Soul Kitchen was established in Red Bank 11 years ago and First on campus. But until this semester, RU-N has not been fully operational since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“We’ve been looking forward to this day,” said Rutgers-Newark advisor Nancy Kantor.
JBJ Soul Kitchen guests sat down to a three-course meal at the Paul Robeson Campus Center restaurant. While serving food, Jon Bon Jovi and Dorothea Bongiovi, who use her husband’s family name, tour the RUN Food Pantry, the campus food pantry, connected to the restaurant and sharing the same mission as JBJ Soul Kitchen.
“We work hard to ensure that food insecure students have a dignified experience,” said Hend El Bouri, store manager.
Jon Bon Jovi said the reopening of RU-N fills an important need.
“Food insecurity is one of the most important issues facing college students today,” he said. “We commend Gourmet Dining and Rutgers University-Newark, who have made tackling this issue a priority so students always have somewhere to go for a healthy, great-tasting meal. We couldn’t have found a better place to open a third location and we truly believe that when students are supported with basic needs And supported by their community, they can and will continue to do amazing things.”
JBJ Soul Kitchen works by serving healthy meals prepared by chefs to students, faculty and the community who have the ability to pay, as well as those in need.
Diners are invited to pay in advance by donating a minimum of $12 or using the donated meal plan “swipe.” They may also volunteer their time by participating in activities around the restaurant or at other on-campus dining locations to cover the cost of a meal. Yesterday, members of the RU-N Campus Police, who volunteer weekly, provided food and helped with clean-up.
Rutgers University-Newark has always been at the forefront of tackling the issue of student food insecurity, taking a holistic approach, opening a pantry, organizing a care team and working with student organizations dedicated to fighting hunger on campus. Kantor said the reintroduction of JBJ Soul Kitchen provides greater opportunities for the community to educate and help each other.
“This is a wonderful partnership and pivotal to our values,” she said. “Bon Jovis’ choice to open JBJ Soul Kitchen here underscores who we are and how important it is to engage with students, staff and the community. The restaurant’s relationship with the food pantry is a great synergy.”
Albury said the JBJ Soul Kitchen is a valuable option for store visitors who may not cook and those with a more pressing need. “We tell them, ‘This is a place where you can get food now,'” she said.
Rutgers-Newark Provost Jeffrey Robinson praised the restaurant’s concept and implementation. “It is a great example of social entrepreneurship at work, when you build a restaurant that meets a social need, you demonstrate the power of the double bottom line.”
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