The Bangor Daily News and the Good Shepherd Food Bank will co-host a community event spotlighting the issues around hunger in Maine on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Good Shepherd food distribution warehouse in Hampden.

NewsFEED is an evening of fun but with a very serious message, according to Kelly Donnelly, BDN events and brand coordinator.

“We are really trying to shine a light on what is going on with Maine and food insecurity,” Donnelly said. “It will also give the Good Shepherd an opportunity to show what they are doing and get people together and show them there are ways to be part of creative solutions to hunger in Maine.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which defines an individual or family as “food insecure” if they lack access to ensure adequate daily nutrition, Maine ranks ninth in the country in terms of food insecurity.

Data collected by the Good Shepherd Food Bank in 2014 showed more than 206,000 Mainers — or 16 percent of the state’s total population — are living with food insecurity, with one in seven Mainers turning to a local hunger relief agency for food assistance.

“We are excited to partner with the BDN on this event and to celebrate the many good things that are happening with local food in our region,” Melissa Huston, director of philanthropy with Good Shepherd Food Bank, said. “Hunger is a serious issue in our state — but it is rarely about a lack of food, it has more to do with who can afford to buy food. “

Last year the Good Shepherd purchased the former BDN printing plant in Hampden, and it is working to convert up to 20,000 square feet for food storage, processing and distribution.

“Holding the event in our warehouse helps guests understand the role that the Food Bank plays in providing communities across the state with access to the healthy, nutritious food that our neighbors need to thrive – much of it coming from local food producers,” Huston said. “We are thrilled that NewsFEED will offer an inside peek of our work.”

NewsFEED is an opportunity for the public to get a look at the new facility and hear from those working on the front lines of Maine’s food insecurity problem.

It also is a fundraiser for the Good Shepherd Food Bank’s capital campaign.

Central to the evening is a “Chopped”-style cooking competition featuring Maine chefs Tim Lewis of Bangor’s Tarratine Club; Matthew Hewitt of the Woodman’s Bar and Grill in Orono and Kristen Miale, president of the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Judges for the competition, which begins at 6:30 p.m., are BDN senior editor Sarah Walker Caron and Bangor City Councilor Gibran Graham. A third judge will be chosen in an auction that evening with the proceeds to benefit the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

“We did a Maine chef challenge last year and wanted to make it even better and more fun this year,” Donnelly said. “Working with the Good Shepherd and their efforts seemed like a natural fit.”

Tasting tables featuring dishes from Maine restaurants including Blaze, Brahma Grill, Sea Dog and Spruce Mill Farm are planned in addition to live music by Rotating Taps and an ice bar.

“This is not just about putting on an event or helping someone put on an event,” Donnelly said. “We want to make real changes to food insecurity in Maine, and we want to show people how they can help and be part of those changes and solutions.”

In the week leading up to the event, Quirk Auto Group, the NewsFEED presenting sponsor, will have a van Monday to Wednesday at the BDN office at 1 Merchant’s Plaza and at the Quirk Chrysler-Dodge Ram auto lot on 307 Hogan Road to collect nonperishable food items that will be donated to the Good Shepherd Food Bank. Food items may also be left at the BDN’s front desk during regular business hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tickets to NewsFEED are $35 for general admission, and the $45 VIP tickets include preferred seating, a meet-and-greet with the chefs and a gift bag. They are available at BDN readers can receive a $10 discount on tickets, by using the code Newsfeed16.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.