As its name suggests, The Nashville Food Project feeds people in Nashville.
The goal of the nonprofit is simple: providing meals for Nashvillians who are coping with poverty. The logistics of that effort are a little more complicated: The group taps up to 600 volunteers a month — they glean produce and other staples from stores, gardens and farmers across the Nashville area; they prep those ingredients and cook them up into hearty meals; they load the food onto two catering trucks; they head to various neighborhoods where there’s a need; and finally, they serve fresh, wholesome meals to folks who could really use one.
But the thing that might not be obvious, according to director Tallu Schuyler Quinn, is that even though the job is a big one — 2,400 meals a month — it’s also a whole lot of fun.“We tell the volunteers it’s like a mash-up between Chopped and Iron Chef,” she says. “There’s not a lot of time to get the work done; we’re usually in a time crunch like Iron Chef, and like Chopped … you never know what you’re going to get.”
Like a recent windfall from a grocery store that turned out to be a giant shipment of quince, a relatively obscure fruit that’s too tart to eat raw. The kitchen volunteers cooked it down into a compote for a bread pudding dessert. As any cook will tell you, you’ve got to think on your feet.
“It takes a really creative spirit,” Quinn says. “I love to see something made from nothing, and that’s sometimes what it feels like, all these pieces pulled together — one meal’s ingredients could be sourced from 20 different places. It’s really cool.”
The creative spirit is found in abundance among the volunteers of The Nashville Food Project, and it’s a big part of Quinn’s background as well. The daughter of Nashville songwriter Thom Schuyler and artist Sarah Schuyler, she studied art and papercraft in college, but when it came to choosing a profession, she felt divided.
“I was considering going to culinary school, because I love food and love to cook, and also considering divinity school. I ended up at divinity school [at Union Theological Seminary in New York], but then became the volunteer cook for this big anti-poverty nonprofit in New York City.”
After working to fight poverty in New York and Nicaragua, she moved back to her hometown to practice what she also occasionally preaches. She’s a minister at Woodmont Christian Church, which provides free office and kitchen space for The Nashville Food Project.
But Quinn makes it very clear that The Nashville Food Project is not an offshoot of the church. TNFP, she emphasizes, is not a faith-based organization.
“We’re trying to provide hospitality,” Quinn says. “And hospitality is not about saying I’ll only welcome you if you act this way or believe X, Y or Z. It’s about making a space for someone else, providing a space for exchange. That’s what we try to do on our trucks.”
The Model Citizen: Karen Elson
The Advocate: Paul Kuhn
The Busker: Mike Slusser
The Cleaner: Sharon Reynolds
The Mobilizer: Remziya Suleyman
The Believer: Theron Denson
The Maker: Zoe Schlacter
The Animators: Magnetic Dreams
The Buyer: Kelly Anne Ross
The Arthouse Ambassador: Sarah Finklea
The Picker: Rory Hoffman
The Singer: Ruby Amanfu
The Educator: Ellen Gilbert
The Air Drummer: Steve Gorman
The Artist: Martin Cadieux
The Chef: Yayo Jiménez
The Futurist: Ken Gay
The Commissioner: Many-Bears Grinder
Quoting passages from the bible is irrelevant as an argument related to government programs.
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That you are, Chucky.
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