Lasagna Love Mamas and Papas address food insecurity, deliver home-cooked meals

Lasagna+with+yellow+cheese+and+red+sauce+heart+in+the+upper+right+corner+on+a+background+of+various+shades+of+red+with+seven+yellow+hearts.

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Jefferies. Graphic by Angeli Mittal.

Lasagna Love seeks to address food insecurity and pandemic burdens by supplying home-cooked lasagna to local community members.

Angeli Mittal, Assistant City Editor

The onset of the pandemic has led some community members to host art displays and food drives. Throughout the past year, however, Lasagna Love Mamas and Papas have tried to help ease financial and emotional burdens that the pandemic has created by cooking one lasagna at a time.

The movement Lasagna Love was born in May 2020 from a San Diego mom’s desire to bring comfort and reduce food insecurity in a time of uncertainty. Today, over 20,000 Lasagna Mamas and Papas, as they’re called, bake and deliver over 45,000 lasagnas to neighbors nationwide.

Chicago and North Shore Lasagna Love outreach leader Alyssa Jefferies said the movement grew in the Chicago area in October and now has about 500 volunteers in the North Shore. She became involved because she wanted to connect with people and give back, she said.

“My mom would always cook (lasagna) so it had a special memory to me,” Jeffries said, “so when I saw this was posted, I was like ‘I could do that.’”

The organization is able to accommodate dietary restrictions, with food options ranging from enchiladas to salads and tuna casseroles. Families can request a meal or nominate a family for a lasagna on the Lasagna Love website, which connects families in need to neighborhood volunteers. Prospective volunteers can also sign up on the website to join the Lasagna Family.

Volunteers can decide how involved they are based on their schedules, said Evanston resident Kourtney Thalgott. Thalgott said when she moved to Evanston last summer, she sought ways to make a meaningful impact on her community, and she found that with Lasagna Love.

“It’s hard to admit that you are feeling food insecure, or you maybe can’t put dinner on your table that week for your kids and your family,” Thalgott said. “This is an organization that’s right in people’s backyards… we’re here, and it’s okay to ask for help.”

Within a couple of days of discovering Lasagna Love on Facebook, Thalgott was matched with a family who lived 30 seconds away from her.

You can’t get more local than that, Thaglott said.

“So many people in our community and across the country right now are working on the front lines, who are working two, three, jobs, to make ends meet,” Thalgott said. “And just that warm fuzzy feeling of having a home cooked meal really spoke to me.”

While the movement primarily focuses on delivering food to families who sign up on their website, Lasagna Love since January has also provided food to Connections for the Homeless, an organization that supports those struggling with housing or food insecurity.

Connections volunteer manager Hail Khalaf said volunteers in his program would cook and serve food directly at the shelter before the pandemic. Now, with the help of community members like the Lasagna Mamas and Papas, volunteers can cook food in their own homes and meet the shelter’s needs.

“Whenever we need something or whenever we ask (for) something, the food that is being delivered is actually being made with people’s love and people’s hearts,” Khalaf said. “They really want to be delivering the right thing.”

That’s the goal, Thalgott said: to keep spreading kindness with these small gestures.

Though Lasagna Love began due to the pandemic, Jefferies said it’s unlikely to end with it. In fact, Thalgott said the plan is for the organization to keep growing throughout Chicago and Evanston.

“There’s always going to be a food insecurity need … as well as a need to connect neighbors and build a sense of community,” Jefferies said. “We can be the connector of building that community and sharing that kindness.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @amittal27

Related Stories: 
Pinto Thai Kitchen donates meals, fights food insecurity
Northwestern researchers find a dramatic increase in food insecurity during COVID-19 pandemic
Evanston food assistance programs adapt to pandemic precautions amidst growing food insecurity

Comments