Bon Jovi, Wife Help Hungry With New East End Food Bank

EAST HAMPTON, NY — Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Jon Bon Jovi has brought his caring efforts to feed the hungry to East Hampton.

This week, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, founded in 2006, announced the formation of the JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank to service six East End food pantries.

With local organizations struggling to meet rising need as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has pledged to finance the food bank — which began distributing food Wednesday — with an eye toward bolstering local efforts to combat food insecurity throughout the summer.

Jon and his wife Dorothea Bongiovi — Jon Bon Jovi was born John Francis Bongiovi Jr. — were out delivering food themselves to local pantries Wednesday. Jon and Dorothea, who have a home in East Hampton, said they'd heard of East End pantries that were overwhelmed by the ever-growing demand. Drawing upon their 15 years of experience in the areas of homelessness and hunger, they reached out to local community leaders, food banks and pantry operators to create a plan.

“The pandemic has strained food distribution networks around the country, and after hearing from organizations on the ground about its local impact, the need for a food bank on the East End became clear to us,” Jon Bon Jovi said.

Dorothea and Jon Bon Jovi in East Hampton. / Courtesy Jon Bon Jovi.
Dorothea and Jon Bon Jovi in East Hampton. / Courtesy Jon Bon Jovi.

In just three weeks, the JBJ Soul Foundation, based in Philadelphia, PA contracted with food distributor US Foods and forged an association with Island Harvest Food Bank, the leading Long Island hunger-relief organization, whose technical expertise and knowledge of the needs of the East End community has been an invaluable resource, Bon Jovi said.

Jon and Dorothea then met with the Scott Rubenstein family, who donated space at The Clubhouse on Daniels Hole Rd. for the effort.

Different from a food pantry, the JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank is a charitable entity that solicits, receives, stores and distributes large quantities of purchased or donated food and grocery products to the community through food pantries.

Working with several East End pantries, the JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank aims to provide food for 5,000 individuals monthly, with plans to reassess need at the end of the summer.

Pre-made Soul Kitchen meals will also be available for those struggling with homelessness or who might not have access to cooking facilities.

Food and essential items will continue to be distributed among community members through existing food pantries, all in accordance with established protocols recommended by public health experts.

“When most people think about the towns of the East End, they don’t necessarily think about hunger, but for many, it is a reality,” said Dorothea.

“No zip code on Long Island is immune to hunger and food insecurity, and the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has created a new standard of need, including among people who have never accessed the region’s emergency feeding programs,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO of Island Harvest Food Bank. “We look forward to working with the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation in addressing the critical issue of hunger on Long Island’s East End to make sure that no one goes hungry.”

Since 2006, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has worked to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through developing partnerships, creating programs and providing grant funding to support innovative community benefit organizations, the organization's website explained. The JBJ Soul Foundation, in partnership with local community organizations, has helped provide funding for more than 700 units of affordable housing and shelter in 11 states and Washington, DC for thousands of individuals and families experiencing homelessness and financial instability including youth and veterans.

Jon Bon Jovi and his wife Dorothea in East Hampton. / Courtesy Jon Bon Jovi.
Jon Bon Jovi and his wife Dorothea in East Hampton. / Courtesy Jon Bon Jovi.

The Foundation expanded its mission in 2011 to address issues of food insecurity and currently operates three JBJ Soul Kitchen community restaurants in NJ, with locations in Red Bank, Toms River, and Rutgers University in Newark.

JBJ Soul Kitchen serves nutritious meals using a "pay it forward" model where there are no prices on the menu but instead, guests are encouraged to make a suggested donation. Those who are unable to donate are invited to join the JBJ Soul Kitchen community to learn about volunteer opportunities and resources, the website explains.

Since its inception, the Kitchens have served more than 100,000 meals, reaching the goal of serving 51 percent of paying diners and 49 percent of diners in-need.

Those who work to feed the hungry in the Hamptons applauded the legendary rock star's altruistic efforts.

Jon Bon Jovi delivered food himself to pantries on the East End. / Courtesy Jon Bon Jovi.
Jon Bon Jovi delivered food himself to pantries on the East End. / Courtesy Jon Bon Jovi.

“Since the COVID-19 crisis began, we have seen demand nearly triple from the after-school families and senior populations we serve. Before, we served approximately 70 people on the first Thursday of every month. Now we serve approximately 200 people per week,” Bonnie Cannon, executive director of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center, said. “I am so glad to be part of this endeavor.”

To make a donation in support of the JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank, click here.

This article originally appeared on the East Hampton Patch