Phrases like “food insecurity” and “heat or eat?” are not typically buzzwords one expects to hear at a gala award dinner. Nor does one expect to break bread in an expansive warehouse surrounded floor to ceiling by crates and pallets of peanut butter, green beans and beef ravioli.
Yet for the JoAnn Pike Humanitarian Award dinner and celebration Thursday evening, hosted by the Good Shepherd Food Bank, no setting was more appropriate than its own warehouse in Auburn.
“One of our goals this evening is to tell the story of the food bank and our work,” said Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank, welcoming a crowded room of both supporters and colleagues. “It’s a story that started 30 years ago with JoAnn and continues in these walls today.”
Miale cited haunting statistics that would seem implausible if not so painfully real — 200,000 Mainers facing hunger every day, including one in four children, yet she also shared stories of selfless co-workers and inspiring community efforts to combat hunger across the state.
“Dead River Company has been a committed partner of the food bank for years,” she said, introducing this year’s recipient of the JoAnn Pike Humanitarian Award. “Both our organizations know all too well that Mainers in need often face the difficult decision to heat or eat — a decision no one should ever have to make.”
While 2012 honoree Michael Dubyak, president and CEO of WEX, presented the the award to Robert Moore, president and CEO of Dead River Company, several of his peers paid tribute to him, including Suzanne McCormick, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Portland and David Glendon, president and CEO of Sprague Energy.
“You serve as a role model for all companies who aspire to provide more than goods and services,” said Glendon, speaking of Moore’s empathetic approach to giving back to people in need.
“For Dead River Company to receive the JoAnn Pike Humanitarian Award is humbling,” said Moore. “It’s nice to be recognized for our efforts, of course. But it also makes us take a hard look at hunger and how we all, as fellow human beings, have a responsibility to help end it.”
More than 225 guests were treated to a dinner of savory concoctions whipped up on the spot by some of southern Maine’s most famous chefs, including David Turin of David’s Restaurant, Rob Evans of Duckfat, Chris Miller of Browne Trading Market, Jeff Landry of the Farmer’s Table, James Tranchemontagne of The Frog and Turtle, Chris Gould of Jordan Farms, Brian O’Hea of the Kennebunk Inn, Eloise Humphrey and Daphne Comaskey of El Camino Cantina, Chris Bassett of Azure Cafe, Karl Deuben and Bill Leavy of SmallAxe and Harding Lee Smith of The Rooms restaurants in Portland.
Though praise for the food was lavish and there were compliments for the chefs to spare, the true meaning of the evening was never far from anyone’s lips.
“The fact that there are kids that go hungry is just shocking to me,” said Smith, proprietor of the Front Room, the Corner Room, the Grill Room & Bar and, opening soon, his newest endeavor, Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room. “When you hear these statistics, you realize that anything we can do to participate in something like this really just makes great sense.”
“In my world, the more you can bring in, the more people you can help,” said Jason Hull, director of the Emergency Food Assistance Program for the State of Maine, explaining the sense of urgency surrounding the plight of hunger. “The demand is increasing. Since the economy went south, we’ve had agencies, food pantries and soup kitchens reporting a 50 percent increase in demand across the state. It’s in every nook and cranny of Maine.”
For more information on the Good Shepherd Food Bank and the JoAnn Pike Humanitarian Award, please visit www.feedingmaine.org.
Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be contacted at: