At least once a week, Heather Capo brings a pot of fresh lasagna to someone in Unity Township, Greensburg and other places within 10 miles of her home in Hempfield Township.
They’re not friends and she doesn’t even know them. All she knows is that for some reason they would appreciate a home-cooked meal. Maybe they’re sick, or there’s a crisis going on in their family, or they’re a single parent who just needs a break. Maybe they are old and can no longer cook for themselves.
“Maybe it’s a financial situation, or they just need a little push for some reason,” she said. “You never know what’s going on in someone’s life.”
Capo is one of 2,358 people in Pennsylvania who volunteer for Lasagna Love, a nonprofit organization with operations in the United States, Canada and Australia. According to Kelly Andolina of Clifton, New York, who is regional manager for New York and Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania volunteers have so far delivered 11,602 lasagna noodles that have fed 45,829 people.
Capo has made 50 deliveries since signing up last May.
“I saw a post in Across Westmoreland on Facebook, and it really inspired me,” she said. “I thought it would be a good choice for me.”
The posting was done by Chris Kachmar of Cranberry, who signed up as a volunteer a year and a half ago, and a month later became a regional leader. The movement, she said, has exploded over the past six months with 150 deliveries per week in Westmoreland, Allegheny, Washington and Fayette counties.
She coordinates volunteers and requests, and also prepares lasagna for delivery.
Lasagna Love was founded by Rhiannon Menn, who was living in San Diego (the family now lives in Hawaii) when the pandemic shut things down. She and her husband owned a design business whose plans were put on hold, leaving her wondering what others might experience and how she could help. The kitchen was her happy place, so she made three extra pans of lasagna and posted on a local mother’s Facebook page that they were free to anyone who wanted them.
People not only asked for the lasagna, but many more wanted to help. It was the beginning of the organization’s commitment to creating kindness and common purpose. Lasagna Love is now a non-profit organization with over 35,000 volunteer lasagna chefs in three countries who have delivered over 150,000 lasagnas so far.
“It’s an incredible organization and the impact is incredible,” Andolina said. The bulletin. “We have fed over 850,000 people since we started. We feed families. We spread kindness and strengthen communities.
Most of the chefs are women of all ages. Some are stay-at-home moms, some are working, and some are retired. What they have in common is a desire to reach out to others.
“It’s very rewarding for me to know that I’m helping someone in need, whether it’s an emotional need, a food shortage need, or whatever it is,” said capo.
Lasagna is as different as the chefs who make it, and there are no requirements for how it is made. Some make homemade sauce while others buy sauce from the supermarket. Ricotta is the main ingredient, and other cheeses or meats can be added.
“I make homemade meat sauce to add to the ricotta and egg mixture,” Capo said. “Then I usually add some sort of embellishment on top, like red and green peppers to make flowers or to spell the word love. I try to make it cute and interesting.
She can deliver the lasagna fresh out of her oven, just in time for dinner. Or the person making the request may have a schedule that works better for reheating the meal or freezing it. The pan is usually the standard 9 x 13 inches, but people who live alone or have only two in their family can request that the lasagna be rolled out in small, freezer-safe pans.
“Our son has grown up and is in graduate school, so it also helps fill my time with my empty nest,” Capo said. “When I was in a rush for delivery, my husband Jerry helped me deliver. He’s also a happy taste tester.
Applications are made online and are matched with an available chef in the region. Some are able to accommodate special dietary needs, such as using vegetarian or gluten-free ingredients, or even dairy-free products. Occasionally, a family whose members don’t like lasagna will ask for another meal that could be filled.
Anyone can apply, no questions asked. Some people explain their situation, and there are so many heartfelt stories.
Kachmar prepared a lasagna for a couple who had just had a miscarriage.
“They were a young couple and she was really struggling and couldn’t get herself out of the dump,” she said. “It meant a lot to her to know that I showed up with lasagna, a complete stranger who made the effort to make it, and to know that there was someone there who cared enough about her. grief to try to cheer him up.”
Lasagna Love is looking for more volunteers. Chefs can set their own schedules to determine how often they’re ready to make lasagna and how far they’re willing to travel to deliver it. For more information on volunteering or to apply, visit lasagnalove.org.