By Ginger DeShaney
Food is love.
And the Lasagna Mamas and Papas of Lasagna Love are spreading that message in South Boston and the rest of the country.
Several local women are giving back to the community in the best way they can during the Covid-19 crisis by making and delivering lasagnas to families who need a little bit of help.
Daniella Place of South Boston was feeling helpless during the pandemic and was looking for a way to help out in her community when she came across a Facebook post by a college friend, Rhiannon Menn, promoting Lasagna Love.
According to its website, Rhiannon founded Lasagna Love at the beginning of the pandemic, almost by accident. Rhiannon, who is also the founder of Good to Mama, was looking for a way to help moms in her community, so she and her toddler started making and delivering meals to families in their neighborhood who were struggling.
“Our mission is not only to help address the incredible rise in food insecurity among families, but also to provide a simple act of love and kindness during a time full of uncertainty and stress,” the website states.
For Daniella, Lasagna Love is a very hands-on way to get involved and connect with people in the community. She started by making lasagnas and delivering them and is now a Lasagna Love Regional Leader in the Metro Boston area, matching families in need with volunteer lasagna makers. She estimates dozens of families a week around the Boston Metro area are receiving lasagnas.
There are many ways to volunteer for Lasagna Love and it all starts with the website: https://www.lasagnalove.org/. To sign up to be a lasagna maker, you indicate how many lasagnas you’d like to make and the delivery area you prefer. The beauty of this organization is its flexibility. You can sign up to make one or two lasagnas a week; you can make one or two lasagnas a month. You can commit to just one lasagna. There’s no pressure and no stress. The lasagna makers usually also donate the ingredients.
When a lasagna maker is matched with a recipient family, it’s up to the volunteer to contact the family to schedule the delivery, which follows Covid-19 safety protocols and can be contactless. And everything is confidential.
If you’re not much of a cook and want to help, you can sponsor a Lasagna Mama or Papa and donate ingredients; donate money to the general organization; help match cooks and recipient families; nominate a recipient family; or spread the word in search of volunteers.
If you are interested in receiving a lasagna, visit https://www.lasagnalove.org/.
Kya Perry saw a post on Facebook about the organization and signed up to receive a lasagna. She is now a Lasagna Mama, making the dish for other families. She holds Facebook fundraisers to help with the ingredient costs and gets donations from people wanting to help.
“It seems like a small gesture, but to that [recipient] family it makes a huge difference,” said Kya, who lives in Roxbury but is formerly from Southie. “We’re all struggling now with Covid. Some parents are stressed out, out of work, homeschooling, and can’t find the time. It’s a huge help to moms.”
“It’s nice to have a home-cooked meal for a night,” said Daniella, Partner Operations Manager on the Google Flights team. “It takes the burden off of that family for a night.”
Gina Tremaglio read about the organization on a South End Facebook group. “I’m an Italian-American; lasagna is important to my life,” she said. “I jumped at the idea.”
She went to the website, read the rules, and filled out the form to be a volunteer. Within a short time she was invited to the private Facebook group, which is a source of positivity, tips, and ingredient sales. Soon after, she made and delivered her first lasagna.
Gina is doing one lasagna a month right now. She figures in the winter months, she may do two a month. “I love the flexibility,” she said.
Like the others, Gina was looking for a way to help. “During Covid, people are feeling disconnected and kind of helpless,” she said. “When everyone is so uncertain, what can I do to help? The problem is so big.
“There’s a feeling of being out of control. We can’t control the virus,” Gina, a teacher, continued. “This program made me feel … that I can make a difference in someone else’s life.”
Cooking is an act of love, Gina said. “By making lasagna — a comfort food — and bringing it to others, you are connected to them. Just to know there’s a person out there who took the time to cook you something adds positivity to that person’s life.
“Someone is making you a home-cooked lasagna. It shows that you are loved and cared for.”
Kelley Jones read about Lasagna Love on the Southie Community Bulletin Board Facebook page. During the pandemic she hasn’t been able to do volunteer work, which is very important to her. So she was thrilled to find this opportunity.
Before Covid, Kelley’s volunteering centered around cancer awareness, food banks, veterans groups, and teen mentorship, most of which were in-person activities. “Not being able to volunteer during Covid has been hard,” she said. But she can volunteer from home for Lasagna Love and still be connected.
This program is also a great way to get kids involved. “It’s a volunteer opportunity you can do with your kids,” Daniella said, noting that kids can help cook or make cards for the recipient family. “It’s something you can do at home and share the importance of giving back with your kids.”
Having never made a lasagna, Lasagna Love provided Kelley with a recipe. Because she can give a little more, she usually also provides a loaf of bread or some flowers, but noted only the lasagna is required.
Kelley recently broke her foot and is unable to make lasagnas right now, but her background as a project manager for TJX fit perfectly for being a Regional Lead, matching volunteers and recipients.
The response from the recipient families has been amazing, all the women agree. “We understand it’s hard to ask for help sometimes,” Kelley said. “We never expect anything in return, but the response has been amazing.”
Some volunteers have thank you cards waiting for them when they drop off the meal. Others get texts of photos showing kids enjoying the meal. Each volunteer said the families are just so appreciative.
“It’s something amazing to do during these stressful times,” Kelley said.
“Food is love.”
To volunteer or sign up to receive a lasagna, visit https://www.lasagnalove.org/.