After learning that East End food pantries have become inundated due to soaring demand, Dorothea Bongiovi and John Francis Bongiovi Jr. (AKA Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Jon Bon Jovi) – who have a home in East Hampton – reached out to local leaders, food banks and pantry managers to formulate a plan of action. That outreach led to establishing the JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank, which will service East End food pantries.
“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.
The JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank, which has already begun distribution, will be financed through Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, whose mission is “to break the cycle of poverty, hunger and homelessness through developing partnerships, creating programs and providing grant funding to community benefit organizations.”
“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,” explained Dorothea Bongiovi.
Once the project’s objectives were outlined, the Bongiovis and the JBJ Soul Foundation team got down to business. In just three weeks, they had secured a food distributor US Foods and established a connection with Island Harvest Food Bank, a hunger relief organization that serves Long Island. Then, they found a home for JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank, which will operate out of East Hampton’s The Clubhouse thanks to the Scott Rubenstein family who donated space.
“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,” expressed Randi Shubin Dresner, president & CEO, 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.”
Different than a food pantry, the charitable entity will work to collect, store and disperse sizable amounts of either purchased or donated food and grocery items to the community through local food pantries.
“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,” relayed Bonnie Cannon, Executive Director of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center, whose food pantry has increase its operation from aiding families once a month to now supplying food to families twice a week. “I am so glad to be part of this endeavor.”
In addition to food and essential items, pre-made Soul Kitchen meals will be available for those who lack access to cooking equipment and those that are struggling with homelessness.
The JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank, who will join forces with several food pantries, hopes to provide food for 5,000 individuals on a monthly basis. At the end of the summer, the Foundation will reassess the need for the JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank.
For more information, visit jbjsf.org.