'Any meal could feed somebody and give that love and joy, but something about lasagna is very community and family-oriented.'
At the start of the pandemic, Rhiannon Menn posted on a Facebook group for local San Diego moms, checking in to see if anyone needed help with cooking or anything else. Menn made her first set of deliveries, bringing lasagnas "to mamas who are struggling right now either because of lost income, lost childcare, or another reason having to do with coronavirus." Menn didn't foresee her local initiative gaining so much attention and becoming a nationwide movement. Now, her organization Lasagna Love has impacted more than a million people with its goal: the kindness of a simple home-cooked meal delivered to one's home. "Our mission is simple: feed families, spread kindness, and strengthen communities," the website reads.
According to the "accidental founder," the inspiration for Lasagna Love came from a fortunate accident that "just kind of happened." Menn shared with Beyondish that seeing other women's struggles to provide for their families broke her heart. So one day, during the initial days of COVID, she placed bucket orders at Costco for food, prepared roughly seven lasagna trays, and checked with neighborhood Facebook groups to see if any families needed additional food. Some people accepted her offer, but many others wanted to help with the cooking.
About 10 volunteers—whom Menn referred to as "lasagna moms and papas"—had joined Lasagna Love by the end of April. Volunteers had a simple goal: they would cook batches of lasagna and deliver them free to other families struggling during the pandemic with food scarcity, financial wellness, or mental health challenges during the pandemic. By November 2020, the project had served lasagna to more than 4,000 people, and volunteers are in every U.S. state, Menn told Washington Post. The organization has served 250,000 batches of Lasagna in two years and has even launched a store with merchandise.
She shared that she wanted her 3-year-old daughter Cimorene to remember the pandemic more for what they did to help rather than for what they lost or the hardships they encountered. Their website reads, "We believe that kindness, however big or small, is the key to strengthening our communities." And Menn agrees, emphasizing that Lasagna Love is about more than just providing meals. It has evolved into a kindness movement. The vehicle just so happens to be lasagna. “Making a lasagna and dropping it off at someone’s door, contactless? That’s easy, and it feels safe. We’re already cooking, why not make a little extra?” she explained. “Besides, that one-on-one connection – even with a stranger – is something I think we’re all craving right now.
A huge plus to the whole exercise is the involvement of family in the art of cooking, the 39-year-old, adding that “family bonding was built into the very fabric of Lasagna Love from day one.” She said to Washington Post that impacting families is something that really drives her. “Giving somebody a lasagna communicates like: ‘Hey, take a break here. Everybody get together, have that family experience.’ We’ve had people say after the fact like, ‘This is the first time we’ve gotten to sit down together as a family in a long time.’ Any meal could feed somebody and give that love and joy, but something about lasagna is very community and family-oriented,” she said. She added that food is extremely important for her and her family. “Food in general, in my family has always been something that has brought us together,” said Menn. “To me, food has always been this thing that’s full of warmth and love and we’re all eating together and we’re all gathering.”