NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH) — If you see a roadside produce stand that has a sign saying “Food is Free” it really is.
There are two such stands in Montville and Norwich as well as four other eastern Connecticut towns.
“You can cut out that little spot and the rest of this is totally fine,” explains Serena Rice who along with two partners started Free Store Connecticut.
Whether it’s bruised fruits or vegetables they make sure nothing goes to waste.
“Most of it comes from local farmers that have too much,” says Rice.
Food pantries and local bakeries also donate their surplus which end up on tables set up outside the volunteers’ houses.
A couple of times a month they also do a big event where they take their Free Store on the road.
“Our first big event was in Baltic a couple of months ago and in an hour and a half we served a thousand pounds of food to 75 families,” says Rice.
When the fresh produce goes out of season home canned goods and winter soups made from their surplus will be free for the taking.
But it turns out most people don’t like to take things for free.
“We come out there might be a quarter on the table or a pair of pants or some canned goods and then the tomatoes will be all gone,” says Rice. “So it’s been sort of a give and take which is nice. It’s about building community and not stripping people of their dignity.”
So many people have dropped off clothing when they’ve picked up food that the volunteers don’t only have bagfuls they have two truck loads of clothing that they’ll be giving away at their next big event.
Rice is hoping others join the effort.
She would like to see them set up tables of their own and drop off food to places like the AHEPA Apartments in Norwich where people are on fixed incomes and fresh food becomes a luxury.
“Oh my gosh they’re just so grateful just to have someone that cares to drop off things frequently for them. It helps them so much,” says Jessica Hill who works for the AHEPA management company.
“We’ve all been hungry you know and we know what it’s like and we don’t think anybody should have to feel that way,” says Rice.
With the colder weather coming the roadside stands which have been set up 24/7 will be shutting down but the group still plans to hit the road two times a month and go to six different towns in eastern Connecticut.
You can check out the Free Store Connecticut Facebook page to find out where and when.
The next big event is in Montville at the Republican Town Committee Headquarters on November 7th.