In the early days of the pandemic, Andrea Scullin, Regional Director of Lasagna Love, found herself responding to a post asking if anyone in her area would be interested in baking lasagna for Lasagna Love, a not-for-profit aimed at easing the financial burden that people were enduring due to the coronavirus pandemic through lasagnas. What followed was a year-long journey to help bring this simple act of kindness to residents of Reading and beyond.
“I was in a Facebook Mom group or something, and someone posted and said that they were cooking for Lasagna Love in their area and if anybody needs a lasagna to go to this website to sign up. And I thought, ‘I like to make lasagna,’ so I submitted my name to be a lasagna volunteer, and then I got an email back saying, ‘We’re new to your area, we don’t have a leader, do you have any interest?’ And so it just went from there, so I started with growing it, and Reading and the towns around it, and now I oversee all the regional leaders in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and still kind of take care of running Lasagna Love in Reading’s surrounding towns”, said Scullin in a recent interview with Sherri VandenAkker on the second episode of Community Connections.
Lasagna Love was born out of the pandemic, although Scullin stated that the organization doesn’t see itself slowing down as life begins to return to normal. Founded by blogger Rhiannon Menn in March of 2020, Menn, much like Scullin, found herself drawn to the idea of helping out her fellow neighbors.
“[Menn] posted on her community Facebook group and said, ‘Does anybody want lasagna?’ Before she knew it – before we all knew it – it became 20,000 volunteers strong across the country, with over 60,000 lasagnas delivered between the 50 states and Puerto Rico”, said Scullin.
Today, Lasagna Love finds itself represented in kitchens and communities across the country. In Reading and the towns surrounding it, there are 120 active volunteers, and there have been more than 700 lasagnas delivered.
Scullin says that there are a myriad of ways to do so for people looking to get involved.
“If you wanted to sign up to make lasagna, you would go to LasagnaLove.org. And then you can sign up to be a lasagna chef. [How often you cook] is completely up to you. You can sign up just once and see how you like it, or you can sign up to do three for a month. It is whatever you feel most comfortable with”, said Scullin.
Volunteer chefs can use recipes provided by Lasagna Love (which specifically tries to add vegetables to make them nutritious as possible), or they can use a time-honored family recipe, as long as they follow any dietary restrictions receiving family might have. Chefs are then matched with families based on how far they are willing to travel.
For residents who are less culinary-inclined, Scullin says that there are other ways to participate in Lasagna Love outside of the kitchen as well.
“We are a 501c3, so we accept website donations on our website. You could donate one time, or you could sponsor a chef. We have people who do Patreon sponsorships, and then our chefs, in return, commit to five lasagnas in a month. I am also going to create an Amazon wish list in order to collect some non-perishable items, such as lasagna noodles and crushed tomatoes. There are lots of ways to get back if you want to”, said Scullin.
For residents who feel that a friend or neighbor might be in need, Scullin says there is a way to nominate others to receive a lasagna as well.
“So there are two things that could happen — one you could go to the Lasagna Love website, and you could nominate them to receive a lasagna. What happens then is you input their cell phone number, and they get a text message with the form where they fill out their information and do any dietary requests and sign off on the waiver, and then from there it gets put into our system”, said Scullin.
For residents who participate in group events or charity organizations they think might benefit from Lasagna Love, Scullin suggests reaching out to her via email at andrea@LasagnaLove.org.
As for whether Lasagna Love sees itself slowing down in the near future, Scullin stated that she does not doubt that the organization will be around for a long time to come.
“People haven’t only been feeling discomfort during the pandemic. There’s always been a need to uplift people, and people want to do something that gives a direct impact. I think it’s great when people can just drop off a hot meal on someone’s doorstep and just to know someone else’s thinking about them. Someone cares if they eat tonight. Someone wants to relieve a little stress, it’s a powerful statement, and I hope it continues for years and years to come”, said Scullin.
The full episode of Community Connections can be found here.