One woman's love for lasagna and desire to feed her neighbors at the start of the pandemic inspired her to get involved in a nationwide mission to fight hunger.
It's hard to beat the comfort that comes in a plateful of warm, cheesy lasagna.
"It's the dish you drop off when someone's had a baby or a neighbor's going through a rough patch," said Rhiannon Menn as she talked about the home-cooked meals she took to neighbors in San Diego struggling as the pandemic ended jobs, closed schools and kept people indoors.
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"I didn't just want to drop off groceries or some random dinner. I wanted to communicate that feeling of there's a neighbor who cares about you. This was made with love," Menn said.
The idea cooked up in Menn's kitchen caught on with others and blossomed into the nonprofit Lasagna Love - a community of people finding power and purpose in pasta.
"And, all of the sudden, we weren't in San Diego anymore. We were in Texas and Iowa, and it's just really spread," Menn smiled.
"So, I do every other week and I do two lasagnas every other week," said Laurie Appelbaum in Flower Mound. She's among 7,000-plus volunteers called 'Lasagna Mamas and Papas'.
Appelbaum saw a segment about Lasagna Love on the Today show back in September. She'd hit a rough patch herself. She'd lost her dad to COVID-19 two months earlier and combined with some other personal struggles felt "lost and angry." She watched the segment and decided to sign up be a lasagna mama in hopes it would soothe her soul.
"One, I love to cook. Two, what an easy solution," she said. "I jumped in and signed up to start delivering."
Appelbaum, in fact, is now a regional leader connecting the 50 or 60 volunteers in the Dallas-area to families in need of comfort food. Another regional leaders oversees volunteers in the Fort Worth area.
"It's really great 'cuz everybody just works together. The goal is to a) help people out and b) get the word out that we're here," she said.
"We have a process that matches them with a volunteer who lives close to them. That volunteer will get their information. They'll reach out by text and say, 'Hey, I'm your lasagna mama or papa. I can come by this day and time if that works for you. I'll drop it off at your door,'," explained Menn.
Menn, a mother of two with another on the way, believes in those pans of home-cooked lasagna are layers of care and compassion.
"This movement has become more than just about feeding families. It's become spreading and sharing kindness and changing how neighborhoods interact and support each other during a time like this," Menn said. "Part of me feels inspired by that and humbled that this idea has grown and part of me feels really gratefully that there are so many people stepping up to help and, even if it's just one night, changed the life of family for one night somewhere."