By Olimpcia Desamour and Michael Gibas
Buffalo Review – West reporters
The sounds of vegetables sizzling, young girls chattering over cups of bubble tea and old men in great debates: The West Side Bazaar has long been a melting pot for different cultures and now thanks to a new program it could see a new influx of people joining its tightknit community.
The Erie County Department of Senior Services was recently awarded a two-, $500,000 grant from the federal government in order to expand its current senior meal program. The current program allows senior citizens to walk into senior centers and receive a free lunch. The new program will partner with local restaurants and will allow seniors to come in any time of day and receive a meal based on the menu of said restaurant.
This is where the West Side Bazaar comes in, home to several up and coming restaurants Erie County approached the organization will be among the first locations to be a part of the new program and has also recently received their own grant that will allow them to expand to a larger location on the West Side.
But Bob Doyle, the operations manager at the West Side Bazaar, knows this program is more than just about the food, especially for seniors in the refugee community here in Buffalo and especially the West Side, which is the second most diverse zip code in the state of New York.
Doyle hopes that the program will allow seniors who may feel excluded from places like senior centers for whatever reason will see this new program as a chance to both be able to get more culturally relevant food and start forming some connections outside of their families.
This fits right in with what the West Side Bazaar is all about, a business incubator that understands the importance of community.
“Our goal as a business incubator, we really want to develop businesses, but we want to make sure that we are developing entrepreneurs that come from our neighborhood,” Doyle said. “Our neighborhoods are only as strong as the communities that make them up.”
The new program will hopefully be bringing many new faces and customers to the West Side Bazaar, a possibility that excites some of the vendors.
|Maria and Alain Rodriguez|
Maria and Alain Rodriguez owners of Kiosko Latino, a Mexican and Puerto Rican place in the West Side Bazaar are among them. They believe the program will help them expand their restaurant.
The other surrounding food vendors also seemed interested, but Kap Thang from Thang’s Family Restaurant has some reservations. He said that while he thought the program would be good for the community, he is still unsure if the it will help his business.
Once the bazaar does move Doyle hopes to keep the same feeling of crowdedness that is so common in other countries while creating more seating and places for new vendors.
The program is expected to start in either January or February of next year and will be available to all seniors over the age of 60.