Niagara County leader helps feed seniors during pandemic

Niagara County

A Niagara County legislator is helping to feed his community during this time of need.

It’s turned into something our most vulnerable population looks forward to every week.

Food trucks in parking lots are something we’re used to seeing in Western New York.

But during a pandemic, it’s taken a lot of work to get things up and running.

“It’s a lot of prep. Today we’re doing pork chops and we cut them ourselves then we did them on the grill at the restaurant. We brought them here to warm them up a bit and out the door they’re going,” said Joe Tomasino, the owner of J & L barbecue.

He’s had to adjust to a lot of changes at his restaurant, especially financially.

But he offers these meals for local seniors at cost.

Niagara County Legislator Jesse Gooch came up with the idea.

He calls it “meals with heart from 6 feet apart”.

It takes place twice every week on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“From the response I’ve been getting, a lot of them look forward to coming out once a week and they really make an event of it. This is their time to get out and get a meal and it’s their night out during the pandemic,” explained Gooch.

It started out as a small gesture to help people in the Niagara County community, but has gained massive popularity.

It’s become a bright spot during a tough week.

“It’s really great. Not only is the meal delicious… they make great food but it’s nice to be thought of,” said Emily Frank, who hasn’t missed a meal since this began.

People have been paying it forward.

People in the community have been picking up the tab for the entire evening.

Sometimes 150 meals are handed out.

“A couple weeks into it, I’d have someone call me and say hey I want to buy all the meals or 50 meals or whatever,” explained Gooch.

People were surprised to learn Gooch picked up the meals for seniors on Wednesday night outside the Wheatfield town hall.

“What?! Wow! He’s amazing. He’s just incredible!” said Frank, when News 4 told her of the kind gesture.

“Up until today I’ve really been orchestrating and putting everything together but I thought tonight was my turn to pay the way,” said Gooch.

Neighbors helping neighbors is a popular trend in Western New York and one that people hope never ends.

Dinners are available every Wednesday and Thursday nights at 5 P.M.

Call 716-694-8504 if you’d like a meal on Wednesday.

Distribution happens outside the Wheatfield Town Hall on Church Road.

Call 716-423-9513 if you’d like a meal on Thursday, where pick up takes place outside Fair Havens Church in North Tonawanda.

You can sign up to reserve a meal after noon on Fridays.

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