In a heartening display of social empathy, multi-hyphenate Jaden Smith has taken a commendable step towards combating hunger amongst the homeless. Smith’s mobile restaurant, named ‘I Love You’, offers free vegan food to people experiencing homelessness, particularly in the Skid Row community of Los Angeles and Harlem neighborhood of New York City. This unique initiative aims to nourish vulnerable populations both physically and emotionally by bringing vegan food and compassionate messaging to those in need
In an Instagram video, Smith explained his inspiration behind the initiative, “It’s always been a dream of mine to give back… it felt like a no-brainer back in 2019 to create the I Love You food truck and give away free meals to the community.” The idea was born from Smith’s first-hand experiences with homelessness during the filming of ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ with his father, Will Smith, in 2006
Despite facing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith’s food truck has consistently aimed to feed more than 300 Skid Row residents at every pop-up. With restrictions now eased, Smith announced the food truck’s return to Skid Row to continue its mission indefinitely.
The initiative goes beyond merely providing free food. Smith places strong emphasis on the intentional ‘I Love You’ branding on food packaging and the truck itself, aiming to instill a sense of love and compassion in a space that is often overlooked or disregarded. He said, “At the end of the day, having access to water and food is a human right and we’re just trying to help people live a better life… it’s because I love you”5.
Smith’s commitment to social responsibility extends beyond his ‘I Love You’ restaurant. In 2019, he partnered with Café Gratitude to create a limited-time ‘I Love You’ bowl, which raised funds to support a donation of 10,000 vegan bowls to Skid Row resident. Smith has also co-owned the sustainable water company JUST Water with his father and replaced 19,000 plastic bottles with paper cartons at the Virgin Sport ASICS London 10K race in 20197.
Notably, Smith is extending the ‘I Love You’ concept to a brick-and-mortar version of the restaurant. Operating on a pay-it-forward business model, the restaurant will offer free food to the homeless, while others will pay more than the food’s worth to cover the cost for the person behind them8.
The Twitterverse has been abuzz with praise for Smith’s initiative. A tweet from @PersonOfTheWeek nominated Smith as a contender for their Person of the Week, lauding his expansion of the ‘I Love You’ food truck initiative into a full-blown restaurant for feeding the homeless.
Another tweet from @pubity highlighted the traveling nature of the restaurant and reiterated the initiative’s noble cause
Jaden Smith has created a travelling restaurant named ‘I Love You’ where the homeless eat for free 👏❤️ pic.twitter.com/5bMyhHyEnI
— Pubity News (@pubity) May 15, 2023
As Smith continues to make waves in social entrepreneurship and the vegan movement, his efforts offer a beacon of hope and a model of innovation in tackling societal issues like homelessness and hunger. His journey illustrates how public figures can leverage their influence to create meaningful change and inspire others to do the same.