BATAVIA — The essential workers at the VA Medical Center in Batavia received 120 meals Thursday. The meals were delivered by Ales’s Place restaurant, which recently joined stockthefreezer.com, an online meal ordering and delivery service started by a Buffalo restaurant owner.

“Part of the online platform is it allows for donations to be accepted online. Then, frozen meals, which are prepared, thawed out in the fridge and then microwaved and delivered to essential workers and people of need,” said Matthew Gray, a co-owner of Alex’s Place. “Today (Thursday) we are at the VA hospital in Batavia. We are dropping off 120 meals that were provided through wnyfeedsthefrontline.org and we just got finished dropping off the meals.”

People can purchase the meals from Alex’s Place online at alexs.stockthefreezer.com and then they’ll be delivered.

“We had this one large delivery today. We had multiple deliveries yesterday (Wednesday) for our first delivery day,” Gray said. “Everything seems to be going very well — providing fresh, frozen meals to homes and stocking the freezer.”

Nick Pitillo, owner of Osteria 166 restaurant in Buffalo and part of stockthefreezer.com said the idea for stockthefreezer.com started after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order that restaurants and bars in the state stop serving food and beverages on the premises effective at 8 p.m. on March 16, 2020. The order said they could only serve food or beverages for off-premises consumption.

“I was pretty distraught. We had to lay off 60 of our employee,” said Pitillo. “We knew we had to get food to the people who could no longer come to our restaurant. A friend of mine said, ‘Why don’t you take a look at meal prep?’ I didn’t know what the heck meal prep was.

“We started researching and looking at it on Google. All of a sudden, it dawned on me. We could take comfort food and make it meal prep and start getting it out,” he said. “The thing that made it really work for us, was, we said, ‘Why don’t we give it an ability to send food to other people?’ We created this vehicle where you could order for yourself, you could order for family members.”

At osteria.stockthefreezer.com, there is a “Donate a Meal” link. People may donate a meal at a cost of $8.

Pitillo talked about the start of the “Donate a Meal” option.

“I was shocked the first night we did it. I didn’t know if we were going to be making 50 chicken parms or 500 or two. The first night out, in 12 hours, we had about 1,500 orders. Within the first week, we had about 3,500 and it’s taken off from there,” he said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1