Lasagna Love’s mission is simple: feed families, spread kindness, and strengthen communities. Their goal is to not only help address food insecurity, but also provide a simple act of welcome comfort and kindness during times of uncertainty and stress.
How Lasagna Love began
The seed that grew into Lasagna Love was planted in San Diego at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020 when Rhiannon Menn decided she wanted to help people who were unemployed or might fear leaving their homes to obtain groceries. She put together seven trays of lasagna and offered them on Facebook to families that needed extra meals.
Some people took her up on her offer, but others asked if they could help with the cooking. By the end of April, Lasagna Love had about 10 volunteers. Since then, the organization has grown to cover all 50 states. Andrea Scullin, the Lasagna Love Regional Director for MA and CT, says,
“Now we have over 20,000 chefs, we deliver around three to four thousand lasagnas weekly, and we’ve delivered over 80,000 lasagnas nationally since the organization began.”
How it works
The basic process is straightforward: prospective lasagna chefs sign up at the Lasagna Love website and fill out a form stating their availability – where they can deliver meals, how many and how often. Anyone who would like a meal submits their request via the website, along with any special dietary needs, and they are matched with a chef. The chef prepares the lasagna, arranges a contactless delivery with the recipient via text messages, and delivers it to the recipient.
Sometimes there aren’t enough chefs to meet all the requests. In those cases, the volunteer leaders try to find alternative solutions.
“Just recently,” said Scullin, “in the Bronx, there were close to 100 requests backed up and not a lot of chefs in that area to fill them. So what we did was we rallied the New Jersey chefs and the Long Island chefs, who then trucked the lasagnas into the Bronx and walked around and delivered all they could.”
In addition, volunteer outreach teams work with local organizations to promote awareness and provide lasagnas for group events or to meet critical needs. Emily Chilton, of Dedham MA, said,
“For Mother’s Day, we did a big push for a Boston-based group who had recently moved out of a shelter into temporary housing. Instead of gifts for Mother’s Day with my mother and my mother-in-law, we made five lasagnas and delivered them. It was such a great way to celebrate motherhood.”
Neighbor helping neighbor
But at its core, Lasagna Love is about neighbor helping neighbor. Says Chilton,
“I enjoy cooking and I enjoy feeding people. I can really relate to the stress of dinner time, a busy time of the day, and a lot to juggle with kids. And then, the thought of how much could be added to that if you are food insecure or if you have a sick family member. So I felt like, oh, I can help somebody with that, I can make like one meal of their week easier, hopefully maybe with some leftovers too.”
No one needs to justify why they are requesting a meal from the organization. Katie Ballard, of Essex Junction VT, requested lasagna for her family when she was in the hospital.
“It just seems like a great way to get a home-cooked quality meal for my family. The whole process was easy. I found it to be very respectful and dignified for the people who are using the program and I found it to be really user-friendly and just very centered on feeding people.”
Saved by lasagna
Norah Piehl, of Belmont MA, is the executive director of the Boston Book Festival. She learned about Lasagna Love last October.
“The timing was actually really good or really bad, depending on your point of view. My husband came down with COVID at the beginning of my very busiest week of the entire year for work. So all of a sudden I was solo parenting and trying to handle my seven year old’s birthday and pull off the book festival. And I was about ready to lose my mind. And then one of the volunteer cooks posted on a Facebook group that I belong to. It seemed like sort of a godsend given what was happening in my life at the time.”
Paying it forward
Like many lasagna recipients, Norah went on to become a chef herself.
“After I found out about the program, I was like, this is kind of right in my wheelhouse in terms of the kind of volunteer activities that appeal to me and that I have time for. In non-COVID times, I prepare a meal once a month for a social service agency. But that’s been on hiatus since last spring, and so this seemed like a good opportunity to pay it forward.”
Chefs can make their own recipes if they want, but Lasagna Love provides a recipe for chefs who would like one. Ariana Roche of North Reading, MA, said,
“I do use the recipe from Lasagna Love because we tried it in our house and it’s delicious. I honestly had never made a lasagna before – I’ve eaten them, but I’ve never made one before joining this organization. So I decided to stick with their recipe.”
As the pandemic winds down, Lasagna Love plans to continue helping people.
“When I made that first lasagna,” said Roche, “It just felt so good to help someone who needed it and to also do something I love at the same time, which is cooking. Even though things are opening back up, food insecurity and just needing help is still such a big, prominent issue. So I feel like Lasagna Love can still continue to help, even after people forget about COVID.”
Lasagna Love’s ultimate vision is to weave kindness back into the very fabric of our everyday lives. Even as we emerge from the pandemic, acts of kindness will forever be welcome.
If you’d like to volunteer to help, request a meal, or make a donation, you can visit Lasagna Love here.