Sales of decorative wooden hearts, made locally and sold at Rivalries, benefit the Falmouth Food Pantry. Many can be seen at homes on Underwood Road. Courtesy

FALMOUTH — Some big-hearted residents have shown their love for the local food pantry by raising thousands of dollars in a positive way to fight food insecurity.

Town Manager Nathan Poore has purchased a number of decorative hearts to affix to town buildings. Proceeds from sales benefit the Falmouth Food Pantry. Courtesy photo

According to manager Nicky Frautten, the food pantry has been serving 40% more people since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March and, in response, community members have increased their monetary donations, including funds raised from heart decorations made by resident Amy Meader.

Meader began attaching postcards with hearts on packaged meals served out of her restaurant, Rivalries. The heart became their symbol, she said, after local resident Tim Tolford crafted a large wooden heart to decorate the curbside pickup area at the restaurant.

“It was drawing attention, people have stopped to take photos, it’s become an Instagram wall and I found it gave a break from the monotony and worry about the times we are in,” Meader said.

After bringing donations to the food pantry, Meader and a local group she has dubbed the Heart Committee ended up creating big wooden hearts with Frautten to sell at the restaurant so people can put them on their homes, with proceeds going to the pantry.

“I really think this fundraiser had brought awareness of the current and ongoing food insecurity needs of many in the community,” Frautten said, noting that the pantry is “unable to take food donations at this time, so many generous individuals are making up for that by donating in other ways.”

The pantry is making 150 home deliveries and distributing food to about 70 families at 271 Falmouth Road from 9-10:30 a.m. on the first and third Fridays of the month in the community, for a total of 220 families being served, Frautten said. That’s up from about 132 families helped at this time last year.

Frautten said it’s not known yet how much spending on food has increased during the pandemic.

“It is difficult to come up with a concrete dollar amount because of the ever-changing situation,” she said. “We are unable to pick up and sort foods that we used to receive as donations. We are purchasing food (nonperishables and vegetables) at retail prices. This is costly, so we are very grateful for the support of the community,”

Other times, expenditures drop or increase sharply as various agencies in the area donate to the pantry. Last week, Wayside Food Rescue Programs provided 80 full boxes of food.

“Feeding about 1,100 family members a month is a challenge,” Frautten said.

So far, $10,000 has been raised between donations and sales of the hearts at $20 each. The hearts are carved by The Craft Shop in Windham, while Frautten paints and adds strings for hanging.

“Even during a hard time, look at what can come out of it,” Meader said. “That’s a lot of money for a grassroots campaign, we didn’t have marketing or anything, just our message and the hearts.”

In addition to wooden hearts, Amy Meader also sells Lego heart kits made by her son and sold at Rivalries restaurant in Falmouth. Courtesy photo

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