Lasagna Love: Locals share the power of a home-cooked meal
Eagle County locals deliver lasagnas to families and individuals who just need a break and a little bit of love
The mission of Lasagna Love is simple: give people who are stressed or overwhelmed a break and show love to strangers in your community in the form of a warm, home-cooked meal.
Simple, but powerful, said Kimberly Kenworthy of EagleVail.
“It means something to people to know that that goodness and caring and just generosity of spirit is still there when it’s such a dark time for people,” said Kenworthy, who leads the local organization.
“There are times I’ve been moved to tears just reading people’s explanations of why they were requesting and how the struggle is so different for so many,” she said. “Some people just say, you know, I’ve been alone for three months, a lasagna would make me feel not so alone.”
Sometimes it is financial strife or a cancer diagnosis that leads people to reach out, she said. Other times, life just gets in the way and people reach out for a bit of relief. Whatever the reason, Lasagna Love volunteers set out to fill stomachs with rich layers of pasta, marinara and ricotta.
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Lasagna Love is a national nonprofit founded at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a direct response to the helplessness felt by Rhiannon Menn, chef, mother and founder of Good to Mama.
In May of 2020, Menn looked around at her community in San Diego and saw a lot of people struggling with illness, job loss and an overall heightened level of stress, according to her testimonial on the organization’s website.
Left wondering what she could do to help, Menn decided to gather volunteers to make lasagnas for strangers as a way to take one small thing off their plate for that day and make them feel loved.
So, she began making lasagnas, with the help of her toddler, for anyone who requested one. Today, the nonprofit has grown to serve all 50 states with over 20,000 volunteers delivering 3,500 meals each week.
Menn’s motto? “Feed families, spread kindness, strengthen communities,” according to the organization’s website.
“I am very grateful with the blessing of this delicious dinner in these times of crisis, whether emotional or economic, it is good to know that there are still good people today,” one mom said on the organization’s website. “My family is more than grateful to these angels that God has sent us to help us in difficult times.”
Kenworthy, who said she makes a “killer lasagna,” first heard about Lasagna Love at the end of September while watching “Today.” Right away, she knew she wanted to get involved.
“It just touched my heart that they were reaching out and trying to find a way to help people during COVID that were struggling for many, many reasons, not just food insecurity, but maybe a loss of job or people that were isolated that live by themselves, people that couldn’t get out to get a meal, people that couldn’t afford a meal or people that just wanted to know that somebody cared,” she said.
It wasn’t long before Kenworthy was making three to five lasagnas every week serving people in the Eagle County area. In January 2021, Kenworthy went from “lasagna chef volunteer” to “regional leader” of the western Colorado area from Summit County to the western border.
She oversees about 60 volunteers, approximately eight of whom live in Eagle County, she said. This is down from the more than 15 volunteers who were participating earlier this year when the valley was still “in the throes of COVID,” she said.
The concept is simple: volunteers sign up to cook and deliver lasagnas for others in their community, Kenworthy said. Anyone interested in volunteering or in receiving a free, homecooked meal can sign up at LasagnaLove.org and they will be matched with someone in their area.
Those looking for a meal don’t have to be “in need” and don’t have to give any kind of reason for signing up unless they want to, she said. Deliveries are always contactless; food is left outside the door with a little note.
“A lot of times people are embarrassed to reach out and ask for help,” Kenworthy said. “So, this is a way to do it where nobody has to be embarrassed.”
For volunteers, “they get to help at a time when we all feel helpless or maybe we don’t know a way that we can make an impact and we see people struggling,” she said.
Kenworthy said she likes to pack garlic bread and homemade cookies or cupcakes with her lasagnas as an extra treat, especially for families with young children. Also, when it comes to serving children, she said she usually blends cooked vegetables into her sauce as a secret way to make the meal as nutritious as it is delicious.
But there is something about a simple homemade lasagna that Kenworthy said represents comfort for many people, delivered at a time when they need comfort most.
“Lasagna, you know, it’s such a homey meal for so many people,” Kenworthy said. “We ate it as kids and it’s just a comfort food and it takes time to make. So, realizing that somebody is doing that and willing to do it just because somebody’s raising their hand … it’s powerful.”
Demand for lasagnas went down this summer but has remained steady, as those who know about the program continue to appreciate a warm meal and a night off from cooking, she said. At the peak, Kenworthy estimated that her volunteers were delivering more than 20 meals each week.
Kenworthy said she sees the decline as a good sign that people are recovering but, with mounting concerns around the COVID-19 delta variant, she anticipates that demand would rise again if a new wave of infections were to hit Eagle County.
“Especially depending on what happens with the schools, if kids can’t go back to school again and parents are struggling, … I would think there will definitely be an increase in requesting individuals and families,” she said.
As the local lead, Kenworthy said she has been working to spread the word about Lasagna Love so that more people in Eagle County know that they can lean on the service whenever needed.
“We know there are people out there that still need help and are struggling for whatever the reason is, and maybe they just don’t know about us yet,” she said.
Email Kelli Duncan at email@example.com