By: Alicia Harris, contributing writer

What is a home cooked lasagna? When I think about it, I envision the “cooking part” of the home cooked meal. For young me, that meant my grandmother patiently stirring a pot of marinara sauce, while I diligently destroyed her clean kitchen in search for contraband candy in her cupboards. A home cooked meal in my child eyes was an experience that meant spending time with one of my favorite people, while learning by osmosis how to cook.

 

As an adult, crafting a home cooked lasagna gives me comfort.  When I am stressed, I cook.  When I am happy, I cook.  When I am sad, I cook.  Cooking is peace and I am grateful that I experience it this way.  But much as a lasagna isn’t made of a single ingredient, a home cooked meal does not have a singular benefit and its meaning may change over time.

 

Does anyone remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid from school?  Right next to the alphabet and multiplication tables, right?  I have a vague (okay very vague) memory of it from my high school psychology class.  It was this colorful pyramid that psychologist Abraham Maslow came up with to diagram the needs and motivations of humans.  The idea was that humans must satisfy certain basic needs for survival and once met, they seek more complex needs which continue to build on one another.

 

The foundation of the pyramid was made up of physiological needs – food, water, air.  Physiological needs were followed by the need for safety – things like a safe home, wellness, and financial security. Safety was followed by the human need for love and belonging.  Once people achieved the first three levels of the pyramid, Maslow believed they progressed to needing acceptance, respect, and accomplishment.  If a human attained the first four need levels of the pyramid, Maslow saw the final need as a human’s desire to achieve their full potential.

 

I applaud Maslow because I think he nailed his description of human needs and motivation brilliantly.  However, he and I part ways on his choice of diagram.  In my humble, unscientific opinion, a homecooked lasagna instead of a pyramid would been a better “need achievement” visual aid.

 

Food insecurity is a growing problem within our country that has been exacerbated by the effects of Covid 19.  Often the people that were already fighting food and financial insecurity are the ones that have been most impacted by Covid 19.   Prior to the pandemic, food insecurity outpaced the resources available to fight it.  Post pandemic, those resources have become even more stretched. For those fighting food and financial insecurity, a home cooked lasagna provides sustenance, but it also provides a moment of well-being. Reducing these insecurity burdens with even a single home-cooked meal promotes health and is often a recipient’s only respite in a time of intense stress.

 

Did you know that a home-cooked lasagna can also provide love and social interaction? People often feel isolated in times of stress or need.  For some, physical isolation may be the actual stressor. For others, they may feel alone in their struggle or perhaps they are afraid to reach out for help.  We don’t need Maslow to know that humans need social interaction, love, and to know they are not alone. While the pan of layered goodness won’t ask for a date, it can deliver human interaction and love.  Each time a Lasagna Love volunteer delivers a home cooked lasagna, a human interaction and an exchange of kindness and love take place.  A home-cooked lasagna means someone chose “you” to spend their time, money, and heart on. For the chef, delivery person or lasagna recipient alike, this interaction and kindness exchange may be the only one they have experienced for quite some time.

 

Ah, but how does a lasagna provide accomplishment and acceptance? Unfortunately, a lasagna will not thank you for bringing it in to the world and accept you into its circle of pasta friends.    However, making, asking for and accepting a lasagna are all accomplishments – many of which require guts, grit, and courage to achieve. We all want to be part of a community and be respected for our contribution to it.  Reaching out to our neighbors by providing a home-cooked meal says, “I understand, I want to help, and I am on your team.” This act of kindness is often the little help that so many people need, and it alone contributes to someone else accomplishing their goal.

 

For those of you still rooting for the Maslow’s pyramid diagram instead of Team Lasagna– consider what he believed to be our most complex human need – reaching our full potential.  Lasagna Love was founded on extending kindness/love, providing help, and building community.  Lasagna Love’s very purpose is about helping people achieve their full human potential by giving them a bit of extra support to get there. A beautiful, nutrient filled labor of love offered to someone that needs sustenance, companionship, or just something normal, helps both giver and receiver be better people.

 

So yes, a homemade lasagna is much more than a meal. But what else it is may change over time as the circumstances and needs of our individual lives and communities change and evolve. This versatile casserole is up for the challenge though and stands ready to dole out hope, kindness, love, compassion, safety, purpose, acceptance, achievement, social interaction, and community.  Yet, it does not work alone.  A homemade lasagna delivered though Lasagna Love provides every chef, delivery person and recipient an opportunity to achieve their full potential in some way.

 

Mr. Maslow is long departed and, while a homemade lasagna delivered by Lasagna Love is a complete representation of our human needs, I suspect there is not going to be a nationwide movement to change Mr. Maslow’s visual aide.  However, there is a global movement to satisfy our human needs and our 450,000+ lasagna recipients and 20,000+ volunteers would attest that a homemade lasagna may be the key to achieving our collective full potential.