Jon Bon Jovi Opens a "Pay What you can Afford" Restaurant

I don’t know about you, but I like to begin my work week on a positive note and this story about Jon Bon Jovi really fit the bill for me.  It seems that he has opened a restaurant in New Jersey where the patrons have the opportunity to pay the suggested price for their meal, donate extra to feed someone else, or work in the kitchen to pay for a meal for their family.  The meals this restaurants provides is nothing like you would expect.  All of the food is fresh and healthy, with vegetables being grown on the property. The food is gourmet and the atmosphere reflects this.  It is a restaurant in the truest sense of the word because patrons are seated and waited on.

Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen from JBJ Soul Kitchen on Vimeo.

“Hunger is everywhere,” said Linda Keenan, acting executive director of the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

More than 16 percent of New Jerseyans struggled to afford food last year. Keenan said her organization serves more than 127,500 people in Monmouth and Ocean counties alone — an 84 percent increase from 2006.

Soul Kitchen isn’t a soup kitchen or a food pantry. The meal it offers, while helpful, isn’t its main goal. (Nor is job creation, although it employs four people — including chef Terrence Stewart, who got the job after completing the food bank’s Culinary Job Skills Training program.)

Instead, Soul Kitchen provides an opportunity for diverse neighbors — affluent and otherwise — to enjoy themselves while supporting each other. As Mimi Box, executive director of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, put it: “Building relationships has to start somewhere.”

Like Starbucks’ new customer-supported microlending effort, Soul Kitchen’s success depends on consumers’ generosity and their belief that their contributions matter.

But if we’ve learned anything from the swell of support for the tea party and Occupy Wall Street movements, it’s that Americans do share that belief. We want to provide for ourselves, and for each other. We want a seat at the table. And it can start at a restaurant in Red Bank. (source)

I think that what I love most about this is the dignity that people are in need will be treated with.  Often poverty means that one is treated with basic respect or even courtesy.  The indigent are expected to be grateful for what ever few scraps are thrown their way.  Even the meager amounts that we set aside for those that less fortunate are heavily policed.   There is always the presumption that someone is running a scam, looking to get something for nothing, because of laziness — rather than general need.  This is ridiculous because we know that capitalism means that society must necessarily be unfair, because the system itself is predatory.

I do however think it is naive to believe that the restaurant will have various classes of people coming together to converse. I think at best they will be serving the working class and the under class.  I cannot for one minute imagine the top 1% dropping by for a meal. Class separation happens for more reasons that a lack of opportunity; it happens because the those that are privileged do not seek to interact with those who are not. We self segregate on the basis of many things and class is most certainly one of them.  Class means more that just different opportunities it also means a pattern of behaviours and experiences.

The only people of means that I can envision sitting down at this restaurant will be hipsters and they will far more harm than they ever could do what with their penchant for things like ironic racism, and tukes in perfectly hot weather.  This is why the real boon is not the meeting of classes but the chance for those that society has a tendency to ignore our right, that is when they are not actively been told to move along, will have a chance for even the briefest of moments to feel like they belong and that they are valued — more importantly — that they have the right to take up space.

I hope that Jon is able to maintain the viability of this restaurant.  This is the path that society needs to take to move forward, rather than holding onto the capitalist model which does nothing but impoverish the masses.  Perhaps, we are finally seeing the beginning stages of the gift economy, which is so desperately needed. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

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