The aroma of fresh basil and oregano infused in a blanket of tomato sauce that smothers layers of baked noodles sandwiched between creamy ricotta cheese is enough to make any mouth water. As an ode to homestyle comfort, lasagna is a meal that brings people together. Through fresh ingredients, a knack for traditional flavor and a desire to bring a smile to people’s faces, Lasagna Love is an organization that strives to positively impact communities in need, one homecooked meal at a time.
Established in March 2020 in response to COVID-19, founder Rhiannon Menn was searching for a way to help other moms like herself in her community. Through a desire to spread love to those in need financially, physically or emotionally, she put out an inquiry on a neighborhood social media page to see if anyone could benefit from a homecooked meal. Cooking up fresh lasagnas with her daughter for her neighbors, Menn soon realized she needed to recruit some friends and family to help fulfill the overwhelming response. Within a year of baking lasagna from scratch in her own kitchen, Lasagna Love has reached ovens in every state in the nation.
“I think that the reason why it has grown so organically is because [the concept] is so simple,” says Felicia Casper, Lasagna Love regional leader and codirector of collaborations.
Feeding into the nationwide movement, Casper says that Lasagna Love was the perfect fusion of all the things she loved as a passionate philanthropist, former hospitality professional and culinary chef. Hearing about Menn’s story through a news broadcast, Casper was inspired to bring these life changing acts of kindness right here to Minnesota. “If I can do something that I love and bring it to families that need it more than I do, then why wouldn’t I?” she says. “I want to provide hospitality, love and comfort to those that need it most in the community.”
Edina resident and volunteer Cathy Winter discovered Lasagna Love through a friend’s involvement and was inspired to make an impact, too. As a busy mother of four children, Winter says she was in search of a way to lend a helping hand that was also mindful of her limited time. Signing up to bake meals once a month, Winter says that the flexibility of choosing how frequent to participate makes it easy to be a part of the program. Whether it is bringing the lasagnas to the families or the process of preparation, she loves what the organization stands for and the positivity that her involvement brings to others’ lives.
“What I really love about Lasagna Love is that they spread the word and make it not just about those with economic hardship, but they also make it for anybody who just needs some extra TLC,” Winter says. “It is just someone saying that they could really use something, and we are able to provide that without any boundaries, requirements or conditions of judgement.”
As a former culinary business owner herself, Winter knows the role that a good meal can play in people’s lives. Providing a sense of unity, a meal can be an escape from whatever is going on in life, “To just be together and enjoy something common which is the food,” she says.
Though providing fresh baked meals is its specialty, Lasagna Love also seeks to eliminate the stigma behind asking for help. “I think the need for a simple random act of kindness is something that we can all benefit from,” Casper says. “You don’t need to change the world to better someone’s day that could maybe be all that someone needs.”
As for the future of Lasagna Love, the organization plans to push new boundaries and spread acts of kindness worldwide. “There is always going to be a need for kindness and that neighbor-to-neighbor love,” Casper says.
Filling bellies of families and individuals each month, volunteers can request how often they want to participate based on their budget and schedule. By specifying preferences to ensure a perfect match, volunteers determine how often they want to get matched per month, how many families they are able to assist, how far they are willing to drive and their ability to accommodate dietary restrictions (meat preferences, gluten- free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan options) in their applications.
Once volunteers are paired with recipients, they are connected through the Lasagna Love portal and granted each other’s phone numbers to coordinate lasagna preferences, as well as the time and destination for the contact-free meal drop off.
Lasagna Love; lasagnalove.org
We Are Lasagna Love