Maine anti-hunger programs that count on funding from the Taste of the Nation culinary fundraiser won’t get as much this year as they normally do, after pouring rain and howling winds washed out the outdoor event Sunday.

But organizers said Monday that the cancellation won’t result in a total financial loss for the local nonprofits.

Many of the items donated by chefs and food businesses to be auctioned under a tent at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth on Sunday will instead be auctioned this week online, through Friday. The event usually raises between $150,000 and $200,000 for the national Share Our Strength hunger program and for four local hunger prevention programs.

Ticket sales were low last week, when the storm was predicted. Even if an online auction and advance ticket sales add up to half of what the event normally raises, the groups involved could see a significant decrease in needed funding.

At Portland’s Preble Street Teen Center, the event typically has raised $11,000 to $19,000 for meals, said Elena Schmidt, chief development officer for Preble Street. The total budget for the teen center’s soup kitchen is about $97,000, she said.

At Good Shepherd Food-Bank, an Auburn-based group that collects food and distributes it to food pantries all over the state, the event typically has provided $20,000 to $30,000 for the Cooking Matters nutrition and cooking education program for low-income families, said Clara Whitney, communications manager for the food bank. The program’s budget is $140,000.


“We’re hopeful (Share Our Strength) can still raise funds this year through the auction and other events. We know we’ll still get some money, just a smaller amount this year,” said Whitney. “But we nonprofits are used to that. We know, often, we have to go out and find other ways to raise the money.”

The other local groups slated to benefit from the Taste of the Nation event in Maine this year are Cultivating Community, whose programs include farmer training and gardening education, and The Opportunity Alliance, a family advocacy group.

On Monday, more than 40 items were listed as part of the Taste of the Nation Maine online auction. One was a four-course meal for 12, with wine pairings, provided in the bidder’s home from Rosemont Market Bakery, with a value of $3,000. Another was a six-course tasting dinner for 10 people at Zapoteca in Portland, valued at $1,500. The auction is online at

Plus, about 175 Taste of the Nation tickets, priced at $100 to $150, were sold beforehand, said Emily Ryan, who coordinates Taste of the Nation fundraisers in New England for Share Our Strength. Ryan said some 400 people were expected at the event, but advance ticket sales were slowed because Sunday’s storm was predicted by weather forecasters many days in advance.

Ryan said Share Our Strength may try to offer other events this year in Maine to make up for the money that would have gone to its local partners. She also said the organizers, which include the national group and local volunteers, may consider having an indoor Taste of the Nation next year, or prepare an indoor back-up plan.



“It was definitely a hit for us. The live auction (at the event) is usually very robust, and it will be hard to make up those funds,” said Ryan, who is based in Boston. “We will still give grants (to local groups) but less. We’ll try to figure out other fundraising we can do to make up that money. We haven’t regrouped yet, but we’ll figure it out.”

Share Our Strength, based in Washington, D.C., organizes Taste of the Nation events around the country to raise money for its hunger programs, including education and helping children get better access to school and other food programs. The group has been organizing an event in Greater Portland for at least nine years, Ryan said.

During that time, she and local organizers could not remember another one canceled. They said it rained very hard during an event in Freeport a couple of years ago, but without the heavy winds that blew Sunday. That event continued, and the rain eventually stopped.

Because of the cancellation, chefs who were bringing food to the event took some losses. But those contacted Monday said they didn’t mind, noting no one can control the weather and they were glad their auction items would still be used.

Zapoteca in Portland had prepared 400 oysters for the event, and ended up giving many of them away at the restaurant Sunday night, said co-owner Tom Bard. Walter’s in Portland had prepped ingredients for a fried green tomato dish, which chef and owner Jeff Buerhaus said he’ll use at his restaurant this week.

“It’s all for a great cause,” said Buerhaus. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”


Comments are no longer available on this story