Spreading Lasagna Love in Alexandria

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Lasagna Love has been providing pasta, positivity, and, well, love across America.

And these volunteers spread the love in Alexandria

Rhiannon Menn (founder of Lasagna Love) preps lasagna with her daughter, Cimorene. (Photo: Rhiannon Menn)

Alexandria, VA – Since the beginning of the pandemic, Lasagna Love has been providing pasta, positivity, and, well, love across America. Founded in 2020 in San Diego, California, by mother and chef Rhiannon Menn, Lasagna Love started with the goal of helping moms impacted by the pandemic.

Today, Lasagna Love has spread across 47 states, coast to coast. In the greater Alexandria area, Lasagna Love counts 120 volunteer chefs who are cooking for countless others.

One chef makes homemade sauce with fresh basil from her own plant. (Photo: Jane Wladar)

The concept is simple: chefs, home bakers, anyone can volunteer to cook a lasagna. Moms, dads, children, parents, families, anyone can request or nominate someone to receive a lasagna. Chefs are matched with recipients. They coordinate a delivery time and place and, voila, love spreads through lasagna.

Lasagna Love can accommodate some food allergies or restrictions. Some chefs have had to get creative with gluten-free noodles, zucchini noodles, and dairy-free cheese.

I spoke with some of Lasagna Love’s volunteer chefs in Alexandria as they shared their stories, processes, and passions for creating good food for good people.

Another chef surprised a client with dessert. (Photo: Helyett Alvarez)

Eileen Murphy said, “What I enjoy about it is getting the whole family involved. I have an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old, and we make it a team effort. The boys enjoy the opportunity to cook, and to know what they’re doing is important to someone else.”

Full-time teacher and part-time lasagna chef Rebecca Culbreth said, “I was matched with a healthcare worker who had been in an accident and was trying to work as many hours as possible but truly was not well. I resonated with this person because of the timing of everything. When you think about human nature, anytime there’s grief, there’s always food. Food is love.”

“It’s not always about whether you can’t afford it. You might just need a break,” Eileen added.

“I love that the philosophy of this is straight from the heart. No questions asked. If you need a meal, we will be happy to make it for you. You don’t have to earn it,” Maria Wasowski said.

Rhiannon started Lasagna Love from just that—lasagna and love. Thanks to the power of social media, Lasagna Love now counts 15,000 volunteer chefs nationwide. In November 2020, it earned 501c3 nonprofit status.

Social media has the power to unite and empower, or simply to comfort people. The Alexandria chefs rave about the support they receive in the Lasagna Love Facebook group. Eileen said, “Somebody posted about their being a chef and that they owned a sauce company, so they provided people with all sorts of sauces. This group not only spreads goodness but also creates opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

Lasagnas are easy to bake in bulk, so the love can be spread. (Photo: Helyett Alvarez)

Rebecca said, “It’s a ripple effect. Kindness is contagious, after all.” Lasagna Love allows Alexandrians who want to make an impact a new, simple, and direct way to do it. “It doesn’t have to be a Herculean effort. Just making a meal is a contribution to the bigger picture,” said Volunteer Helyett Alvarez.

Food insecurity is a global problem that the pandemic has exacerbated. Maria concludes, “The pandemic was a good catalyst for this, but Lasagna Love is not going away. It is only getting started,” Maria added.

These chefs, volunteers, teachers, parents, and families are proving that lasagna is the ultimate comfort food and, more important, that a little love goes a long way.

If you are interested in volunteering for, donating to, or requesting from Lasagna Love, visit www.lasagnalove.org.

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