TACO Welcomes Our New Food Coordinator, Cindy Quinonez
I greatly value being TACO’s Food Coordinator, working together with volunteers from many places in the community, including First Lutheran, to help nourish any and all who come in need of the weekly meals we prepare. Feeding the homeless and working poor in San Diego has been an important part of my life for the past fifteen years.
In 2004, after a 25+ year first career in banking, I found myself starved for both time in the kitchen cooking, and helping the under-served – dual passions of my youth. I started volunteer cooking for YWCA shelter residents and then 300+ hungry children at a church in Tijuana, while helping do weekly food distributions to working poor San Diego families.
I came late to where I belonged: a culinary career focused on improving food quality for people most in need, rejuvenating body and soul. I was rejuvenated in the process, finding in the kitchen not only my true calling but also my Peruvian husband Pablo who has greatly enriched my life, directly and with his five children, who have become mine as well. Pablo and I meet in the kitchen of the Westgate Hotel, where I did an internship for graduation from the San Diego Culinary Institute, before being hired as Kitchen Supervisor for the San Diego Rescue Mission. For two years at the Rescue Mission, I not only feed residents, but helped them develop kitchen skills of their own, while completing an associate degree culinary program at Grossmont College.
Furthering my education led me to work in a variety of kitchens, becoming food service supervisor and chef for Scripps Mercy Hospital in 2012. During my six years at Scripps Mercy my mission grew to promoting wellness through better access to quality food throughout the region in partnership with organizations like the San Diego Food System Alliance.
Perhaps most notable has been my work with our commercial fishermen, their industry’s survival important to preservation of San Diego’s heritage as well our local food system. With success, locally landed, nutritionally important, affordably priced seafood may actually add to, rather than disappear from, the diets of our low-income residents, already impacted by the near- to full-demise of other historic San Diego food industries (dairy, poultry, etc.).
I retired as a healthcare food service executive chef and dietary manager early in 2019, wanting to focus more on my community activities. Thankfully, former TACO Food Coordinator Marguerite Grifka found me then through a mutual friend, and introduced me to TACO. I love every minute being part of the TACO crew, aiding wellness of body and soul for those we serve, through access to quality food.