By Beth Lawrence
Eighty thousand meals, 300,000 recipients, 25,000 volunteers in 50 states including Western North Carolina. That’s the impact that one organization has had since the beginning of the pandemic.
Now Lasagna Love is extending its reach to Jackson County, but they need volunteers and recipients to make that possible.
Lasagna Love came into being in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when blogger “Good to Mama” wanted to help other mamas in her community.
“She and her toddler started making and delivering meals to families in her neighborhood who were struggling whether it was financially, emotionally or simply feeling overwhelmed,” said Kim De, co-regional chair of Lasagna Love WNC. “The organization has since grown into a national movement, with thousands of people all cooking and delivering to families in their communities.”
Their mission is straightforward – to feed families, spread kindness and strengthen communities. But the program does much more than spread cheer. It can mean the difference between a hardy meal or no dinner to a family that is struggling financially or a respite for an overwhelmed parent.
“It is to not only address the incredible rise in food insecurity among families but to also provide a simple act of love and kindness during a time full of uncertainty and stress,” De said. “Help doesn’t have to just be hunger. It can mean you are working extra hours and could use a meal cooked for you. Needing help means anything you need it to mean, no questions asked.”
The WNC chapter has 50 volunteers in Henderson, Madison, Cherokee, Haywood, Transylvania, Macon, Yancey, Mitchell and Avery counties. They already have a small presence in Jackson but are hoping to expand their reach by recruiting volunteers and meal recipients.
Volunteering doesn’t have to mean cooking. Helpers can cook as often as they want, deliver meals or donate money or supplies. Volunteers set their own schedules and delivery radius. The organization’s system matches a volunteer with a family based on their schedule and delivery preferences. Contactless delivery via a front porch drop-off or a meetup in a public place is encouraged. Volunteers will be given food safety training.
Meals can be delivered hot, cold or prepped and ready to cook depending on what the volunteer and recipient choose together. Volunteers most commonly prepare a main dish, but they can provide salads, bread or other sides if they choose, and lasagna is not the only option.
“We encourage our volunteers to cook something that makes them comfortable, and discuss it with the recipient,” De said.
Grassroots efforts like this are important not only because they address needs, but they also build community, De said.
“It’s such an easy gesture, but it goes such a long way,” she said “There is so much need out there, and when you get involved with Lasagna Love, that becomes quite apparent. Most of us can’t relate to not being able to put food on the table, but there are so many Americans who can’t, so we’re doing our part to help those folks out.”