As we go through our lives, there are countless opportunities for us to make a difference in the lives of others. We routinely recognize many of these chances, especially when it relates to close friends and family. But many others exist that may be less than apparent but even grander in scale in their effect. Seizing these moments and choosing a different path can greatly affect the type of life we lead. And not only can they empower us but can similarly impact thousands of others in the process. Identifying these special opportunities is often what determines the lasting legacy we have on society.
Tallu Schuyler Quinn never seemed to have difficulty appreciating such moments. Early in her adult life, she committed herself to helping others in need and strengthening her community. Over the course of a decade, she has served millions of individuals dealing with hunger through her Nashville Food Project. Her bold charity has helped many overcome the struggles of poverty. At the same time, she has brought dozens of charitable organizations together throughout the greater Nashville area. Their common purpose they share today can be directly attributed to Tallu’s early commitment to make a difference.
Choosing a Life of Bold Charity Early
When Tallu decided to attend college, she didn’t envision an organization that would one day become the Nashville Food Project. Instead, she chose to get a Bachelor’s degree in papermaking and bookbinding. Not necessarily the course of study that one might expect for someone with bold charity in their future. But Tallu went on to attain a Master’s degree in divinity from Columbia University. It was here that she was introduced to liberation theology, which focused on freeing others from oppression. From a theological perspective, oppression could reflect a variety of things, ranging from poverty to abuse. But the oppression that Tallu focused on was that of hunger.
In Nashville, roughly 13 percent of the community live below the poverty line. Many of these individuals are homeless, and the majority suffer from hunger on a daily basis. This was the area where Tallu wanted to apply her insights concerning liberation theology. So, in 2007, she launched a Nashville-based branch of Mobile Loaves and Fishes to help feed the hungry. This humble start would eventually lead her to create the Nashville Food Project in 2011. During the years in between, her bold charity projects also included an organic community vegetable garden and emergency response meals. Her goal was to not just provide calories but nutritious foods as well. (Dig deeper into the topic of nutritional foods in this Project Bold Life story.) The impact she made on people’s lives as well as on the community were truly impressive.
Tallu’s Vision for the Nashville Food Project
In 2011, Tallu had already developed a city-wide response system to help meet the needs of many of the community’s hungry. Likewise, she had established a means by which struggling families and individuals could use a community garden. Here, they had access to gardening tools and could grow nutritious food for themselves and others. But Tallu knew more needed to be done as she contemplated her future vision of bold charity. Initially, this prompted her to create the Nashville Food Project where people could grow, cook and share food resources. And later, it led her to establish community-wide collaborations with other organizations to achieve an even bolder mission. This partnership model, which began in 2012, has greatly increased the ability to address the hunger needs of Nashville’s broader community. (Read more about fight against hunger locally in this Project Bold Life story!)
In Nashville alone, approximately 40 percent of all food ends up in landfills. Understanding this, Tallu knew there had to be a better way. As a result, the Nashville Food Project reached out to other organizations in the community focused on disrupting poverty. The end result was a vast partnership involving over 70 other organizations, all focused on bold charity efforts. This partnership included organizations like Fifty Forward, Open Table Nashville, Launch Pad, and others. Together, they have been able to provide over 200,000 meals to those in need in 2020.
A large part of these bold charity efforts have been supported by local businesses. In many instances, unused foods are recovered from various restaurants, groceries, and conference centers. In fact, Whole Foods donates about 1,000 pounds of food per week to the Nashville Food Project. Likewise, they received over 28,000 pounds of meat last year from the 2020 Annual Meat Conference that went unused. By extended her bold charity network, Tallu was able to scale her efforts to better meet the needs of the community.
A Perpetual Inspiration of Bold Living
Tallu Schuyler Quinn has certainly been recognized for her commitment to helping those in need within the Nashville community. But her bold charity achievements through the Nashville Food Project have also been acknowledged more globally as well. This year, she will be the recipient of the inaugural Woman of Purpose award that recognizes female philanthropy. This award, given by Les Dames d’Escoffier International, honors those committed to global sustainability, food justice, and public health. Tallu will also receive a book deal from Convergent Books that will publish her own experiences in a memoir. These honors and awards will certainly serve as an inspiration to others in their bold charity pursuits.
Future endeavors of the Nashville Food Project will continue to focus on the food needs of the Nashville community. But these efforts will proceed without Tallu Schuyler Quinn at the helm. A year prior, Tallu was diagnosed with a Grade 4 brain malignancy that is incurable. As a result, her time is limited, and she is no longer able to manage the organization. But even in her struggles with cancer and therapy, she continues to encourage others to embrace bold charity. Through daily writings, she reflects on her achievements and on life itself. And she seeks to touch those who she cares about, including all those living in the Nashville community. In all she has done and continues to do, Tallu perpetually inspires us to live the boldest life we can.
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