If you got your heart broken or lost your job and don’t know how to cover rent, you should definitely have some lasagna.
That’s California Regional Director Bethany Williams’ mantra for seeking solace from Lasagna Love. Originally envisioned by Rhiannon Menn from her San Diego kitchen during the start of the pandemic, Lasagna Love is now an international nonprofit that delivers lasagnas to anyone who wants it, no questions asked.
“We were so isolated from each other,” Williams said. “This was a good way to really connect with each other without endangering yourself.”
Lasagna Love grew to have chapters in every U.S. state and now has a presence in parts of Canada and Australia, delivering an average of 2,500 to 3,500 lasagnas a week. Williams signed up to volunteer in October 2020 and has cooked and made deliveries every week since.
Closer home, San Luis Obispo County has a Lasagna Love chapter too. It started in October 2020 and now has roughly six volunteers. These participants are residents who sign up and get matched with local recipients online. Once assigned, volunteers coordinate with clients about dietary preferences and delivery times before dropping off the lasagnas at doorsteps free of charge.
“The volunteers pay for all their own supplies,” Williams said of the nonprofit’s financial plan. “Lasagna Love also accepts donations, all through the website.”
One such volunteer is Arroyo Grande-based Sheri Gordon. An empty nester who recently moved to the area, Gordon found Lasagna Love to be a fulfilling way to use up her newfound free time.
“I was feeling sad, and I felt the best way to deal with my issues was to help somebody else,” Gordon said. “I enjoy cooking, and there’s something about a home-cooked meal that’s delivered to someone that feels so good.”
In the first week she’d been a volunteer, Gordon delivered a 9-by-13-inch tray of lasagna to a woman in Nipomo who broke her ankle and couldn’t stand up. The two ultimately struck up a conversation.
“Her mother had passed away a few months ago, and she was in a dark place in her life,” she said. “I don’t know a lot of people here and have a limited social life. It gave me a purpose for the day.”
For other volunteers like Holly Zaninovich, Lasagna Love fits easily into her schedule. The Shell Beach resident cares for her son who has autism and found cooking and delivering lasagna to be a low-commitment way to give back.
A volunteer since last December, she finds herself making portions as large as an entire sheet pan to ones as little as a small loaf pan. Zaninovich is assigned to the SLO County region and makes deliveries to Oceano, Arroyo Grande, and SLO.
“I love that volunteering with [Lasagna Love] serves people directly in our own community,” she said. “There’s no specific commitment, and you can alter your [delivery] schedule.”
Zaninovich is a self-professed lasagna fan. So much so that the layered pasta dish crowned her dinner table last Christmas. For Lasagna Love’s recipients, she’s dished out vegetarian versions made with zucchini or spinach and ricotta, lasagna “rolls” tailored for single servings, and even chicken alfredo lasagna.
“I always like to round off a meal with Caesar salad and a loaf of bread,” Zaninovich said. “We’re supposed to tell [requesters] about these considerate extras so that other recipients don’t expect it every time.”
Her latest delivery was to a cancer patient who wanted to share a meal with her friends. She’s also prepared lasagna for Cal Poly students who were crunched for time to cook, and even recommended Lasagna Love to her own daughter who’s enrolled in college in Georgia.
“I went to Cal Poly years ago, and that would have been great at the time. Who doesn’t want a little kindness and comfort?” she said. “Sometimes people need things, and it’s nice to ask for something and not feel judged.”
Lasagna Love goes beyond lasagna. Volunteers are welcome to offer another main dish that they’d prefer to cook instead. Zaninovich is currently pondering a roasted chicken option while Arroyo Grande’s Gordon is anticipating the incoming winter with a shepherd’s pie.
“We ask one of the options to be lasagna, but I’m not a cop,” Regional Director Williams joked. “Be kind and be safe. Everything else is up to you.”
The average wait time for lasagna delivery in SLO County is 21 days but that’s open to changing, according to Williams. The nonprofit is always on the lookout for more volunteers—that’s one of the four goals it aims to achieve every year by July 29, National Lasagna Day.
Williams told the Sun that by that day each year, Lasagna Love also pledges to deliver 10,000 lasagnas over a 10-day period, sign 100 people up for the monthly donor plan, and raise $100,000. Volunteers participate through local events and also digitally for Lasagn-A-Thon where they can stream their cooking online.
“This year, we delivered 11,000 lasagnas before the end of the week,” she said. “It’s our big Superbowl event!”
New Times Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal might beat deadlines with more lasagna. Send speedy wishes to [email protected].