Saturday, April 19, 2014
John Woods believes this year’s Taste of the Nation dinner will be the best ever.
The 2013 Taste of the Nation Maine Chef Committee, from left: Larry Matthews, Back Bay Grill; Lee Skawinski, Vignola Cinque Terre; Sam Hayward, Fore Street; Steve Corry, Petite Jacquline and Five Fifty-Five; Jeff Landry, The Farmer's Table
Ted Axelrod Photography
SHARE OUR STRENGTH MAINE TASTE OF THE NATION DINNER
WHEN: June 23. VIP guests 3 to 8 p.m.; general admission 4:30 to 8 p.m.
WHERE: Wolfe’s Neck Farm, 184 Burnett Road, Freeport
HOW MUCH: General admission $125; VIP tickets $200
Of course, as the state chair of the event, he says that every year. But it’s for good reason, and it’s usually true.
“We have to be better every year because this issue is not going away,” Woods said.
The issue is childhood hunger. Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation dinners, held in nearly 40 locations across the country, bring chefs, restaurants, sponsors and the public together at over-the-top culinary benefits to raise money and awareness for local groups that make sure no kid has to go to bed hungry.
Maine’s dinner, run entirely by volunteers, has quickly become one of the more successful ones in New England, outperforming even Boston.
Just four years ago, Maine’s Taste of the Nation raised $40,000, but it cost $20,000 to put on the event, leaving just $15,000 for grants to local charities. Last year, the sold-out event raised $143,000 but only spent $8,000 on the dinner.
Add in revenues from other dinners and bake sales held throughout the year, and Maine’s chapter of Share Our Strength was able to donate $175,000 to four beneficiaries who are told the funding must go specifically to helping hungry children: The Good Shepherd Food Bank and its Cooking Matters program, which teaches low-income families how to cook inexpensive, nutritious meals; the Preble Street Teen Center; Cultivating Community; and the Opportunity Alliance/East End Kids Catering.
“Our funding helped (East End Kids Catering) to serve a thousand meals a day to children in Portland last summer,” Woods said. Nationally, one in five children lives with food insecurity, not knowing where they will get their next meal. In Maine, the number is one in four. Maine is the “hungriest state in all of New England,” Woods said.
“As a percentage, we have more children who live in food-insecure homes than in any other state in New En-gland,” he said.
Woods’ goal for this year’s dinner is to raise $175,000 to $200,000.
The dinner will feature food and specialty drinks from more than two dozen restaurants. That represents 28 chefs, the largest number that have ever attended, and Woods is also expecting more guests than ever since he is raising the number of available tickets from 350 to 400 or 425.
Guests will be able to meet and chat with longtime supporters of the dinner, such as Sam Hayward of Fore Street, Jeff Landry of The Farmer’s Table and Larry Matthews of Back Bay Grill. New this year are Jonathan Cartwright from The White Barn Inn in Kennebunk and chefs from Black Birch in Kittery, Spread in Portland, Five-O in Ogunquit, Walter’s in Portland, and the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport.
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