At the end of a workday, many individuals look forward to coming home and enjoying a meal alone or with family. It is a ritual that, for many, helps put the stress of the day behind them. However, for many healthcare workers currently working long shifts in hospitals to provide patients with care and medical treatment, that ritual isn’t always possible.
Jenny Goskie, owner of Jenny Goskie Farmers Insurance Agency in Wildwood and the vice president of the Wildwood Business Association, wanted to find a way to help healthcare professionals working on the frontlines against the COVID-19 pandemic while also supporting the businesses in the local community that were looking for ways to help from a distance.
For inspiration, she looked to her peers in Franklin County. Another Famers Insurance agent in that area was reaching out to restaurants to prepare sponsored meals that were then donated to Mercy Hospital in Washington, Missouri.
“They were having tremendous success and it was really helping their local businesses keep their doors open,” Goskie said. “That’s really how it came about. We knew we wanted to do something, and then we heard about this program.”
It was then that Meals for Mercy was born.
Goskie launched the St. Louis-area program in the first week of April. Since then, the program has gone on to donate over 700 meals to Mercy Hospital St. Louis while simultaneously giving a total of $5,600 back to local restaurants who have participated.
“It didn’t really surprise me, because I know the community we’re in and I know we love to give back,” Goskie said. “I knew it was going to be successful and that’s why I wanted to do it.”
The program works because restaurants who choose to participate are encouraged to prepare cost-effective meals that individuals or corporations can sponsor for about $8 a meal. Goskie compiled a list of participating restaurants by reaching out via email. Some have even reached out to her first after hearing about the program through social media or word-of-mouth from others.
“The restaurants and businesses have been reaching out to me saying ‘We want to do this too,’” Goskie said.
According to Goskie, every restaurant that has been contacted has immediately jumped in to participate.
“It’s been great,” Goskie said. “I’ve been reaching out via email, and I haven’t had anyone say they don’t want to participate. Everyone has been so gracious and willing to help.”
Once a restaurant has said it wants to participate, they are then added to a program’s schedule. A different restaurant handles a different meal each day. Currently, the program delivers meals three times a week. The restaurant then decides what dish they want to provide for their day and prepared the food in their own kitchen.
“I want to make sure [restaurants] are making money on this, so they either make smaller portions or anything that make it cost effective for them,”
Then, those wanting to sponsor a meal can call the restaurant directly, place an order, and pay for the donation without any middleman handling the finances. This means that not only is a meal donated to the program, but the entire $8 cost goes right into the pocket of the restaurant.
“So, a member of the public calls in to the restaurant and says ‘I want to order a meal for Mercy,’”
The daily goal of the program is to get 50 meals sponsored for frontline workers at Mercy Hospital St. Louis in Creve Coeur. This amount was determined through communication with the hospital in terms of how many individuals are on-call and working.
According to Goskie, some restaurants that have participated in the program so far include Big Chief Grill, Thai Bistro, Parkside Grille, Benedetto’s on Main and Craft Eats & Drinks. Some restaurants from outside the Wildwood area also have gotten involved, including Super Smokers’ BBQ and Sarah’s on Central in Eureka.
Goskie then oversees the transport of the ready-to-eat meals to the hospital every day. While she sometimes works alone, other
The meals are then distributed to areas of the hospital depending on the employee needs that day. While the meals were originally planned to be routinely delivered to the COVID-19 floor, according to Goskie, the meal delivery locations are cycled throughout the hospital.
“What they’ve been doing is kind of rotating the floor that they go to,” Goskie said. “So, one day, it might go to the COVID-19 floor, but they next day, they might send them over to labor and delivery.”
Regardless of where the meals are delivered, according to Goskie, the employees and staff at Mercy Hospital have been grateful for the support.
“They are so gracious,” Goskie said. “They know we’re coming before we get there, so they’ll have someone waiting there at the entrance. We don’t go into the hospital. They come out to our cars with their carts to bring it in, but they are so gracious and thankful.”
While the program is currently delivering meals to Mercy three days per week, according to Goskie, she plans to continue the initiative as long as there is a need and as long as the community is eager to give.
“Anybody who wants to volunteer or help make this thing bigger, than can always reach out to me,” Goskie said.
For more information on how to get involved, visit the program’s official Facebook page, “Jenny Goskie Farmers Insurance” or email email@example.com.