RAVENSWOOD — The coronavirus pandemic has been hard on everyone, but moms have faced some major challenges.
The New York Times reports almost 1 million mothers have left the workforce — some due to layoffs, others due to lack of childcare with kids home from school. This has led to food insecurity in many homes, particularly among women and families of color.
When a mom in California started thinking about how she could help, she had one simple idea: Lasagna.
“Lasagna Love was created as a moms helping moms organization. But now it’s evolved into helping families of all shapes and sizes,” said Alyssa Jefferies, a Lasagna Love board member. “We’re really just trying to take the stigma away of asking for help.”
Lasagna Love started with the goal of bringing homemade lasagna to neighbors in need. The group expanded to Chicago in October, with about 450 volunteers scattered across the city and the North Shore. Since then, local volunteers have donated 1,700 lasagnas.
And there’s always leftovers with lasagna, Jefferies said, which means families can get more than one meal out of the delivery.
The all-volunteer run program was founded by Rhiannon Menn in May and has since spread to over 1,000 cities. The nonprofit abides by three simple principles: feed families, spread kindness and strengthen communities.
National nonprofit Feeding America estimates there are 798,130 people in Cook County who were food-insecure as of October, and the crisis has disproportionately affected low-income families and hourly workers, according to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
“No one needs to feel helpless at a time like this,” Menn said. “Lasagna Love makes it easy for anyone to support others in their own community.”
People who want to volunteer to bake lasagna can sign up on the nonprofit’s website and fill out a volunteer form. Once a confirmation email is sent they can start getting connected with neighbors who need help.
And people who want to request a lasagna or nominate someone to receive it can fill out a form here.
“You can nominate nurses or someone that’s had a special impact on the community. Or a family member who’s having a rough go of it or someone who was just diagnosed with COVID,” Jefferies said.
Twice a week, Lasagna Love volunteers match meal requests with volunteers across the city using the information collected from the website.
“The volunteers are spread all over the city in different neighborhoods. We have a algorithm that matches the families with volunteers based on distance,” Jefferies said. “They’re paired up and then contact each other to figure out the best date for contactless delivery.”
The nonprofit currently has a large number of volunteers based in Ravenswood, North Center and Roscoe Village, but the group is hoping to expand, Jefferies said.
If volunteers can do more, Lasagna Love will match them with several families needing support. And the contact form allows the people requesting aid to include dietary and allergy restrictions.
In the coming weeks, the nonprofit’s volunteers are also set to deliver 45 lasagnas for The Boulevard of Chicago in Humboldt Park, 50 lasagnas for The Dignity Diner in Lincoln Park and 25 lasagnas for the youth group at The Night Ministry’s Crib in Bucktown.
“We’re really just connecting people at the end of the day. Every little bit helps to spread the word and help us connect with families who need help,” Jefferies said.
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