Two years ago, to commemorate his 21st birthday, actor Jaden Smith launched the I Love You Restaurant, a vegan food truck initiative to combat food insecurity for Los Angeles’ homeless. Smith’s vegan meals found their way to 8,000 of L.A. ‘s Skid Row residents. Eventually, I Love You’s efforts were expanded to serve at-risk residents in Harlem, New York City.
“Our mission is to spread love to communities experiencing food and/or housing insecurity by offering water along with fresh, high-quality, and delicious sustainable meal options,” his food website explains. When the pandemic hit Smith’s organization continued to donate vegan food but also distributed masks, clothes, hand sanitizer, and other essential items.
Smith is now pivoting his I Love You concept yet again with plans for a more permanent version of his restaurant on the table, bringing the success of his past efforts into the next phase. The “pay as you can” philosophy welcomes anyone to partake of the yet-to-be-announced location’s fare. Those who can afford the suggested menu prices will be in effect subsidizing meals for those who can’t.
The I Love You Restaurant is just one of Smith’s philanthropic projects. In 2019, through his company JUST Goods Inc., he led an initiative centered on bringing a water filtration system to Flint, Michigan. The company joined forces with Flint’s First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church to implement a system called “The Water Box” which helped reduce lead and other toxic chemicals in contaminated water.
In 2018, he also led an effort to donate water each month to the city’s schools until the water was safe to drink which led to thousands of bottles being donated to Flint schools. “I want to have something I can feel good about that I can feel like it’s changing the world. I’m not only being neutral with the world, I’m actually making the world a better place. I’ve just always wanted to be an advocate of humanity” Smith said.
Initiatives like Smith’s are instrumental in evoking change. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are over 500,000 people in the United States experiencing homelessness on a given night. Feeding America reported that in 2017 nearly 40 million Americans—including over 12 million youngsters—lacked access to food.