NEWARK, NJ — Jon Bon Jovi and wife, Dorothea, opened their first JBJ Soul Kitchen on a college campus at Rutgers University-Newark to address college students' struggles with food insecurity.
The Rutgers University-Newark campus marks the third location in New Jersey for JBJ Soul Kitchens after a successful decade with two restaurants in Red Bank and Toms River. JBJ Soul Kitchen partnered with the school's food service provider, Gourmet Dining, to transform the idea into reality.
"Food insecurity is one of the most critical issues college students face today," said Bon Jovi, JBJ Soul Foundation board chairman. "We applaud Gourmet Dining and Rutgers University-Newark who have made tackling this issue a priority so that students always have a place to go for a great-tasting, healthy meal."
"We couldn't have found a better place to open our third JBJ Soul Kitchen location and truly believe that when students are supported with basic needs and backed by their community, they can and will go on to do amazing things," he said.
The famous musician credits his wife as the driving force behind the idea.
"JBJ Soul Kitchen’s pay-it-forward model serves an in-need and paying customer," said Dorothea Bon Jovi. "Those who can pay, pay for their meal. Students in need who are unable to pay contribute by volunteering. All guests enjoy a delicious three-course dining experience where dignity and respect are always on the menu regardless of socioeconomic status."
University faculty, staff and community members were encouraged to support the restaurant.
More than 50 percent of students at Rutgers University-Newark have exceptional financial need. In the spring of 2017, the university opened a food pantry, organized a care team and worked with student organizations dedicated to fighting hunger on campus. Last fall semester alone, the food pantry served 30 tons of food.
Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor said the soul kitchen is not a stigma, but an empowerment.
"This is a recognition of the reality of what it means to be a first-generation student, what it means to be a low-income student," Cantor said. "With the food in your stomach and the striving in your heart and brain, you will make a difference in the world."
Many of the talented, brilliant, hardworking students at Rutgers are struggling to make ends meet, Gov. Phil Murphy said. "And that means they may be going hungry. As we all know it may be difficult to ask for help, even from family. Here at the JBJ Soul Kitchen, anyone can come in for a delicious meal in an incredibly warm and welcoming environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect."
Michael Frungillo, Gourmet Dining president, saw a long line of students waiting to visit the food pantry and knew something needed to be done to help them focus on academics, instead of worrying where their next meal would come from.
"Understanding there was a successful model and a great champion essentially in our own backyard in New Jersey, we soon approached Jon and Dorothea and the JBJ Soul Kitchen. We're honored to carry their mission forward and know we have all the right ingredients to make a difference."
Every week the soul kitchen's menu changes with a variety of options for appetizers, main courses and desserts. Some of the menus will feature a Soul Spiced BBQ Pulled Beef, a Coffee and Soul Spiced Short Rib and Maple Roasted Chicken. All meat served is certified Halal, Kosher is available upon request and there are always vegan and gluten-free options, along with delicious desserts.
Beginning on Thursday, Jan. 23, the JBJ Soul Kitchen RU-N will be open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is located on the second floor of the Paul Robeson Campus Center at 350 Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Blvd in Newark.
Those interested in making a contribution to the JBJ Soul Kitchen can visit https://www.runewarkdining.com/jbjsoulkitchen/.