Hub City restaurants to combat drug addiction with food

By Dan Corey

Even though it is widely known that drug addiction in general is difficult to fight, many New Brunswick residents and Rutgers students probably do not know that part of combating addiction can be as simple as enjoying a meal at a local restaurant.

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, Sushi Room, Thomas Sweet and Jimmy John’s — all located on Easton Avenue — as well as Papa Grande Grille on Louis Street, will participate in the “Eat to Beat: Drug Addiction” fundraiser that will raise money for addiction awareness programs in New Jersey from Thursday, Sept. 24, to Saturday, Sept. 26.

“We want to raise money, which in turn will provide education and awareness for a lot of children in (various) organizations throughout the state of New Jersey, as well as spread (addiction) information around Rutgers University,” said Ryan Morris, a Rutgers Business School senior.

All five participating businesses will donate 10 percent of the money earned during the three-day period to Steered Straight Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to developing addiction awareness community programs, Morris said.

Morris, co-chairman of the “Eat to Beat” Fundraising Committee, said he always wanted to develop a charitable project that would benefit local communities, as well as the entire Garden State.

After studying abroad at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy, Morris felt motivated to engage New Jersey residents in the same way Italian community members reach out to one another.

“The Italian people care for each other, they give back to each other (and) they’re family-oriented,” he said. “That kind of wore off on me … (it) inspired me a lot.”

Eating “to Beat” drug addiction is important because everybody knows someone who suffers from some form of addiction, said Mike Schnur, co-owner of Thomas Sweet Ice Cream and Chocolates, which is located at 55 Easton Ave. in New Brunswick.

The “Eat to Beat” event and Steered Straight Inc. charity are good to get involved with because they can take preventative measures to address addiction before a drug user falls victim to it, Schnur said.

“(We’ve) got to take care of the situation before it’s too late,” he said. “To help support an organization that supports teens and young adults trying to beat the addiction of drugs and alcohol is very important.”

In order to attract more customers to participating restaurants, and thus raise more donation money for Steered Straight Inc., certain food vendors will host local celebrities and allow customers to meet with them.

Sushi Room, located at 12 Easton Ave., will host Nicole Napolitano and Teresa Aprea from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, during the time of the “Eat to Beat” event.

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, located at 5 Easton Ave., will host boxing legend Gerry Cooney at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, and WCTC-AM’s Bert Baron at noon on Friday, Sept. 25.

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ wanted to participate in the three-day fundraiser because the business simply wanted to be a part of something that benefits the state of New Jersey, said General Manager Matt Fraysier.

“It just really sounded like a great cause and something that we definitely wanted to make sure we aligned ourselves with so we can help them raise money for a great cause,” he said.

Although raising money to fund addiction awareness programs is the fundraiser’s primary goal, Morris said the process of publicizing it inherently raises awareness for the cause, which in itself accomplishes something for the charity.

“It’s similar to why people should care about cancer and other diseases,” Morris said. “Drug addiction can be — and has been labeled — a disease. If you are educated and know of ways to avoid it or prevent it, then I think that’s worth more than money.”

In order to donate to Steered Straight Inc., log onto or visit the “Eat to Beat: Drug Addiction” Facebook page.