A nonprofit headed by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jon Bon Jovi is forming a new food bank that will provide food to East End pantries facing higher demand from families and individuals amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Bon Jovi and his wife, Dorothea Bongiovi, who own a home in East Hampton, said in an interview Tuesday that they have pledged to finance the newly formed JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank. Operated by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based anti-hunger nonprofit the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, the new food bank seeks to help South Fork food pantries keep up with the rising needs of struggling families and individuals during the pandemic.
The food bank will operate from space at The Clubhouse in East Hampton donated by the Scott Rubenstein family. It aims to provide food for 5,000 individuals monthly on the South Fork, as well as pre-made Soul Kitchen meals to the homeless or those without access to cooking facilities.
Dorothea Bongiovi, who said the East End was “a place that we love and is close to our hearts,” said the couple had seen recent news reports about the lack of food in supermarkets on the East End since the pandemic began and the increase in families and individuals that local pantries were seeing. The nonprofit had also received calls from residents asking whether they could possibly provide help for the region.
“We made a few calls and we talked to some of the local pantries here, and it became very apparent that what they needed was a food bank,” Dorothea Bongiovi said.
Jon Bon Jovi said that while they would like to eventually expand to the North Fork, the plan for the new food bank is to reassess the need at the end of the summer.
“It’ll be obvious by the end of summer what the next steps will be,” he said. “So this is, in essence, a start, and we’ll reassess it from there.”
Holly Wheaton, director of the Springs Food Pantry, said her pantry feeds more than 700 people a week and received three trucks worth of supplies this week from the new food bank. Those supplies included jelly, peanut butter and canned tuna fish, which Wheaton said she was excited for because their pantry has been unable to get those supplies for months.
Vicki Littman, chairwoman of the board of directors for the East Hampton Food Pantry, said she didn’t know the details behind the new food bank but that the area could use its resources.
“As long as we’re all helping to feed those in our community, especially during this time where there’s so many people, it’s welcome,” Littman said. “I applaud them for coming forward and helping our community.”