Singer-songwriter and New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi will open his third restaurant location on Rutgers—Newark campus in January, according to an article from CBS News.
The JBJ Soul Kitchen, which has locations in Red Bank and Toms River, was founded by Bon Jovi and his wife, Dorothea Hurley, eight years ago as an idea to help those in need within New Jersey.
"Hunger doesn't look like what your mind's eye might imagine," Hurley said. "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.' And they look around the restaurant, and I say, 'I can name five people right now that I know are homeless in this restaurant right now, but they don't look like what you think they're gonna look like."
To ensure all patrons are fed, the two locations do not put prices on the menu, but instead asks for a $20 donation that covers the cost of their meal and someone else’s. If someone cannot afford to pay, they can volunteer to help staff to cover their meal, according to the article. Volunteer work consists of help around the restaurant such as washing dishes.
The restaurants use local ingredients and are almost entirely run by volunteers. The two locations are frequently filled, with approximately half of the patrons donating to help the other half who cannot afford their meal, according to the article.
The Newark location, which will be located in the Paul Robeson Campus Center, will operate somewhat differently. The suggested donations will only be $12 and can be paid by cash, credit card or University dining credits. Those who cannot pay can either volunteer at the restaurant or somewhere else on campus, according to an article from NJ Advance Media.
Rutgers—Newark officials acknowledged that food insecurity is an issue among college students, and said recent studies show that approximately 30% of students at four-year colleges nationwide do not have consistent access to healthy dining options, according to NJ Advance Media.
In the interview with CBS News, Bon Jovi requested that the Rutgers—Newark faculty promote the restaurant so students in need are aware of the new resource available to them.
"We need you guys to spread the message because we can provide great food, but unless the kids are coming in to eat, we failed,” Bon Jovi said.
Bon Jovi told CBS News he hopes the restaurant on the Newark campus will help college students save money and eat healthy meals.
"When you send your kids off to school, you don't think about, after tuition, books, living, what's left for food?" Bon Jovi said. "And so few are on meal plans to begin with. And that's another reason why they're eating ramen noodles. We all think it's the rite of passage — to study hard and eat the ramen noodles. But how about if it's the only thing you can afford?"