Jazz music and hunger relief may seem unrelated, but it was a passion for the rhythms of jazz that sparked one of the biggest hunger relief projects in the country.
In the 1980s Edina resident Wayne Kostroski was chair of the Uptown Art Fair. After the art fair’s success, Kostroski, a musician and local restaurant owner, had another idea. “I thought we could create a jazz festival,” Kostroski says, and they called it Uptown Jazz Fest. “But we decided the neighborhood might be more susceptible if we made it a charitable event.”
The search for a charity led Kostroski to the door of Joyce Uptown Food Shelf where he spoke with staff. “I was shocked that I was working in the food industry and yet people are going hungry,” Kostroski says.
This experience inspired Kostroski to eventually create Taste of the NFL, an annual event taking place in Super Bowl host cities. Chefs from every city with an NFL team come together to share their unique cuisine and culture, and to raise money for a great cause. “It was meant to be a single event,” Kostroski says. “But it was a smashing success.” Now in its 27th year, the event has raised 25 million dollars for hunger relief. “That really translates into 200 million new meals,” Kostroski says.
This year the Taste of the NFL, or “party with a purpose” as it’s often called, comes home to the RiverCentre in St. Paul. Smaller accompanying events will take place in the months before the main event that occurs the night before the Super Bowl. Event goers, including many A-list celebrities, will walk the red carpet toward “food heaven”—40 tables filled with delicious cuisine from all across the U.S.
“It’s important that we keep doing this event,” says national culinary director for Taste of the NFL and Edina resident Mark Haugen. “The Super Bowl has a lot of great parties, and this is a great party but it’s also a great cause.”