MANCHESTER, CT — A surplus food giveaway at a Manchester restaurant on Thursday turned into two lines of cars that snaked their way around the Buckland Hills mall property in two directions.
The donations were the brainchild of Maggie McFly's owner and founder Ray Harper. With restaurants limited to takeout and curbside pickup in light of coronavirus social distancing requirements, produce has been piling up. He thus joined forces with Cisco subsidiary FreshPoint to use the massive mall parking lot as a staging area to empty a truck with a bag of food for each car that drove up until supplies were gone.
The truck was holding about $10,000 worth of goods that filled about 500 bags.
"Some grocery stores are struggling, but the supply chain for restaurants is abundant," Harper said. "The items have a certain lifespan, and we'd rather give it away to families that need it than seeing it go bad," Harper said.
Milk and beverages were also given away with Pepsi also being a sponsor.
"It's great to help everyone out," said Hilary Russo, a member of the waitstaff at the Manchester Maggie's. "Hey, it gets me out of the house while also doing something good."
Despite the sheer numbers of cars, a smile never left Russo's face as she worked the point at the pickup station.
A good portion of the Maggie's staff worked at the station.
The event was to be staged from noon until 5 p.m. and organizers made it clear that the offer stood only until the bags were gone. People began lining up so early that the staff felt compelled to hand bags out early.
Lisa Fournier put her dog Kermit in their car and was in line by 11:20.
"This is such a nice thing to do," she said. "It's so much better than seeing it go to waste."
Another mom in line yelled to Russo, "Thank you ... our children are hungry."
At about 11:30, the line of cars went from the edge of the electric car charging station, through the Sears drop-off lane and to the truck in front of Maggie McFly's. That was a seven-minute wait.
By 11:56 p.m., that line stretched to the light at Buckland Hills Drive. Another had formed around the back of the mall, past Dick's Sporting Goods. Merging into one line turned into gridlock.
The scene became reminiscent of the 1970s gas lines.
The food was projected to run out by 1 p.m. with plenty of cars still in line.