GTPulse: Lasagna Love Spreads Through Northern Michigan

On any given Tuesday or Wednesday night, Katie Corona and her husband refresh their phone or computer screens waiting for a match.

They’re not looking for a date or a donor. These two are part of a larger network of folks making lasagnas for people in need of a hot dinner, and they’re waiting to be matched with the next family they’ll make one for.

When I likened the process to online dating, Katie laughed.

“It’s funny because that’s what it feels like and that’s what it’s referred to as; a match. Once a week we get a match. My husband and I do this together, and he’s asking, ‘Hey have we gotten matched yet?’”

Lasagna Love started last year in Hawaii when the pandemic hit. A woman named Rhiannon Menn began delivering homemade, ready-to-bake lasagnas to families struggling to get dinner on the table. A few social media posts talking about Rhiannon’s good deeds resulted in a flood of requests. There were plenty of folks in need of a hot meal and plenty that wanted to volunteer to make them. May of last year, Lasagna Love was born.

Lasagna Love became a nonprofit organization this past November and is now available in all 50 states. There are more than 20,000 volunteers that make lasagnas, and anywhere from 4,000 to 7,500 are delivered to homes weekly. Katie and a few other volunteers are in Northern Michigan trying to spread the word.

“I just want to get the word out. At first, I wasn’t getting matched and it was because no one here knew about it in Northern Michigan. That’s when I went to Spark In The Dark and Overheard in Traverse City. Within a week I was getting regular matches.”

The website connects volunteers with hungry homes. To get started as a volunteer Katie filled out a profile that asked her questions about how many times a month she wanted to make a lasagna, how far she was willing to travel, and if she was interested in making vegetarian or gluten-free options too.

“You go to the website whether you want to be someone who is making food, or if you want to request it. So I signed up. They call us volunteers Lasagna Mamas or Lasagna Papas. You put your preferences into this system, whether you want to make one a month or 10 a week, or however often you want. It’s all customizable.”

The organization provides a meal for people who need them but also contributes to a sense of community. Lasagna Love has a recipe that volunteers can choose to follow, but most volunteers enjoy using their favorite recipe or one that’s been passed down in the family. It’s a way for them to share a piece of their home and family with fellow community members.

“There are a lot of resources provided by the organization. Volunteers can offer a family other meals too, maybe they make kick-butt chicken dumplings, but most are making lasagnas.”

For those interested in receiving a lasagna and being matched with a volunteer, there are no stipulations for making a request. Whether you’re a large family, a couple, or someone who lives alone, you can submit a request.

“It doesn’t really matter why you need a meal. It could be financial, it could be emotional, you may just be feeling overwhelmed. It’s a very nonjudgemental organization, nobody’s going to judge you for asking for a meal.”

Once a request has been submitted, a volunteer will be matched with the request and will coordinate the best time to do a contactless drop-off at the home. Katie said for Northern Michiganders to not be discouraged if they get a message saying that there are no Lasagna Mamas or Papas in the area.

“There’s a lot of love and care that goes into it. You’re making something for your neighbor and showing them that you care. What we say we do is feed families, spread kindness, and strengthen communities.”

For the volunteers, Lasagna Love is a way to feel proactive about doing good for your community. For the recipients, it’s one less thing to worry about on an already full plate of life stresses. But for everyone involved it’s an act of neighborly unity.

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Categories: GTPulse