Rhiannon Menn and her army of “mamas and papas” will deliver free, homemade lasagna to your family — all you have to do is ask.
During the pandemic, Menn founded Lasagna Love, a grass-roots volunteer organization that tries to alleviate stress and food insecurity for families impacted by COVID-19. And recently, the group found its way to Newton.
In Newton and surrounding areas, the organization has between 25 and 30 volunteers, according to Menn, who divides living in Somerville and San Diego, Calif.
The number of volunteers, which the organization calls “mamas and papas,” grew after their Northeastern volunteer coordinator, Emily Cahill, a Belmont resident, posted about the organization on community Facebook groups.
“Newton has been wild,” Cahill said. “We’re always posting to find families in need of support, but these posts organically draw people who want to help.”
There are no baseline qualifications for asking Lasagna Love to deliver food to your family. Visit their website, fill out the form with basic information, make sure to include any allergies, and they’ll do their best to get you your lasagna.
Menn said she started Lasagna Love at the height of the pandemic to help out other families from the undeniable stress of COVID-19. Menn and Cahill, who are both mothers, said they found volunteering helped them relieve some of their stress.
“There’s something called the helper’s high: When you give freely without expectation of something, there is a biochemical change that occurs that makes you feel really, really good,” Menn said.
Cahill began as a volunteer in August, but she said she became a coordinator when she wanted to get more involved. She’s now cooked lasagnas for 15 families, she said, and has also found volunteering to be a form of self-care.
“When I thought about the scale of the stress, it was really easy for me to get overwhelmed, and to feel like there’s nothing I can do for this crisis our country is in,” Cahill said. “And with Lasagna Love I could do one simple thing for one family and make their life easier.”
The name “lasagna mamas” came from the first volunteers all being mothers themselves, Menn said. Lasagna papas soon joined the mix, she said, helping the organization explode from 15 volunteers to 1,500 and expand to all 50 states.
“'Lasagna Mama' is now a broader term for somebody who delivers lasagna to families in need,” Menn said. “We have people who are like, ‘Oh, I’m not a parent but I have a puppy!’”
Shawna Lemelman, a Newton mother, interior designer, and yoga instructor, said other organizations for which she was volunteering halted their operations due to the pandemic. Lasagna Love, which she heard about on Facebook, gave her a new opportunity to help people out in a particularly tough time.
“The feedback that you get from these families makes everything else seem so miniscule,” Lemelman said. “It takes the stress off because you realize that what you’re doing matters and is good.”
As Lasagna Love has grown, it’s moved into non-lasagna food deliveries as well.
“Last week, a woman told me she was craving flan for dessert, and I’d never made flan in my life,” Lemelman said. “But I said, ‘Alright, I’ll do it!’”
Cahill said Lasagna Love is not about serving one kind of family experiencing one kind of hardship. While the organization is aimed toward families struggling with food insecurity or financial hardship, the point is to help families out — period.
“Everybody is experiencing hardship in some way at this moment,” she said. "One of the things that resonated with me about volunteering with the Lasagna Love is that we don’t place any judgment on anybody that comes to us.
“We deliver to anyone that says, ‘I need this. I could use this help.’”
Armand Manoukian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.