Local Mom Leads Charge in Fighting Food Insecurity – One Lasagna at a Time

Since the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people nationwide battling food insecurity has risen from 1.3 million to 1.6 million.

This sharp upturn in families struggling to put food on the table, coupled with the mounting responsibilities from online school, job loss and general stress prompted California mom Rhiannon Menn to start Lasagna Love in May 2020.

The movement connects individuals looking to cook for someone in need with a family in need of some extra help. Now, Lasagna Love has spread nationwide, and the metro-Detroit branch is helmed by Jolie Abreu, a mom from Wixom.

The founder, Rhiannon Menn, “knew that there were a lot of people in her area struggling with food needs or were stressed from being alone, working multiple jobs, being unemployed or from Zoom school,” says Jolie Abreu, the regional leader for metro Detroit.

“She posted on Facebook and got an amazing response,” Abreu adds. “Now we’re in roughly 35 states and have 1,500 volunteers nationwide and we have more than 225 volunteers locally.”

Abreu isn’t a stranger to helping out those in her community. During the first shut down, she stepped up to make “care calls,” reaching out to people in need of help or under stress from the global pandemic.

Volunteering with Lasagna Love “really spoke to me on that service level,” she says.

She took on the job of regional manager for Lasagna Love’s local chapter, where she matches volunteers and recipients, answers any questions people have about the program, and spreads the word about the program to reach even more people in need.

Plus, helping out those around her has rubbed off on her 9-year-old daughter who attends Walled Lake Schools.

“She helps me cook and with the decorating and the packaging,” she says. “… We did a Valentine’s Day theme and she’s involved in the creative end, but she knows what we’re doing and why and that it’s going to someone who needs a little help.”

Getting involved

Those requesting a lasagna can do so once a month and can ask for gluten free, nut free, dairy free or vegan or vegetarian lasagnas. Volunteers can specify how far they are willing to drive to drop off the lasagna and if they are comfortable accommodating those specific dietary needs.

Volunteers typically pay for their own ingredients, but there are some funding options for supplies if necessary.

“We offer to deliver a hot, ready-to-eat lasagna or something that’s prepared and ready to cook,” Abreu says. “Not everyone has a working oven, but if they do we include cooking instructions and we also put a list of ingredients, so the adults in the house know what’s in it.”

“We wear masks and gloves and sanitize while we cook and we bake within FDA guidelines, so it’s all done safely,” she adds. “We take our volunteer work very seriously.”

To those wondering whether they should get involved, Abreu says the experience is a wonderful way to make an immediate impact.

“From my own personal experience, the very first lasagna that I delivered was the most amazing feeling, just knowing that they were really in need of this meal and they were so grateful and I was able to provide that for them,” she says. “I walked back in my door literally jumping up and down – it was such an amazing feeling that from just an hour out of my day I could make such an impact.”

“It’s just so rewarding,” she says. “I know recipients are getting a home cooked meal, but volunteers are getting just as much, if not more.”

If you would like to sign up to receive or provide a lasagna, visit LasanaLove.org to be matched. There is also an option to nominate a friend to receive a lasagna.

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