What the World Needs Now is Love…Lasagna Love

I’ve experienced a new round of firsts this year, as I imagine you have as well. First time eating outdoors at a restaurant surrounded by other customers. First time listening to live music. And a few weeks ago, my first hug from someone outside my family. That hug was an especially poignant first for me. Recently, my family’s favorite ice cream shoppe reopened for the season. When we went to get ice cream, we were greeted with a big hug from the owner of the store. I felt such conflicting feelings about the hug. It was slightly disorienting to try to remember what it was like to have such close contact with members of my community, and at the same time, it felt warm and comforting to reconnect with the caring, compassionate owner of the shoppe. 

 

 As COVID restrictions lift, our neighborhoods reawaken from quarantine. In this time of transition, many of us are taking time to re-evaluate our lives, our activities, our commitments. We are reorienting ourselves to being part of our communities. How does Lasagna Love fit into this new way of being? As a volunteer organization inspired by the community needs of COVID, do our communities still need Lasagna Love? 

 

Though Lasagna Love was inspired by the hardships faced during the height of the COVID pandemic, its mission to feed families, spread kindness, and strengthen communities is as important now as it was last year. There will always be a need–for a family to receive a warm meal at just the right time, for the joy of a simple act of kindness, for the strengthening of the bonds of community.

Feeding Families

“The people who give you their food give you their heart.”

Cesar Chavez

 

I remember staying at my grandparents’ house during the summer, sitting down to a meal with my grandmother forever encouraging us to “Eat a little more of this.” and “Why not have an extra serving of that?” With the countless hours she spent preparing meals and the endless exhortations to fill our plates, my grandmother was speaking the language of love through food. Her equation: warm, full bellies = warm, full heart.

 

Even though we are no longer fully locked down due to COVID, there are still many families who struggle to make that equation work in their own homes. In fact, Feeding America projects that “42 million people (1 in 8), including 13 million children (1 in 6), may experience food insecurity in 2021. Many people who have been most impacted by the pandemic were food insecure or at risk of food insecurity before COVID-19 and are facing greater hardship since COVID-19.” Lasagna Chefs who volunteer each week to prepare meals for local families are doing their part to combat those empty plates and hungry bellies.

 

Lasagna Love also helps address the other half of my grandmother’s equation. Not everyone who reaches out for a meal from Lasagna Love is struggling with food insecurity. Families need a meal for a variety of reasons–illness, feeling overwhelmed, stress, feeling lonely. I once delivered a meal to a lonely college student who was just grateful for some home cooking. There’s something special about a meal carefully prepared at home by someone caring, something that can’t quite be replicated by picking up takeout or defrosting a frozen meal. It’s the love incorporated into each serving, the unspoken communication that “your well-being matters to me, and you are special enough that I am honored to take the time to cook for you.” 

Spreading Kindness

“There’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. 

Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” 

– Scott Adams

 

We can all use a daily dose of kindness. Whether it’s someone letting us merge into a lane of traffic, a stranger giving a wink and a nod when they notice we’ve ordered the same type of coffee at the local coffee shop, or someone offering to help maneuver all those grocery bags into the car when the kids are having a meltdown, the little acts of kindness help us feel more positive about ourselves and our place in the world. 

 

Jamil Zaki, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory, found that kindness itself is contagious, and that it can cascade across people, taking on new forms along the way. When we show kindness to someone else, that person is more likely to be kind, even if they show kindness in a different way. Inside our community pond, we create giant ripples of kindness that impact other areas, until the entire community is abuzz, rippling with acts of kindness. 

 

Lasagna Love has provided me the opportunity to show kindness, and to grow myself through that act of showing kindness. I’ve begun to see little ways to show kindness beyond my weekly meal deliveries–running down the street to help an elderly woman living alone to install a window fan, bringing extra garden plants to a neighbor, and last week, merely sitting for 20 minutes to talk with the man who was receiving my lasagna delivery. It’s amazing how many opportunities for extra acts of kindness arise when you have trained yourself to look for them. Lasagna Love is a predictable, consistent way to spread kindness, to help others who need an extra boost during the week. Who knows how far that meal’s ripples of kindness will expand?

Strengthening Communities

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens 

can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 

– Margaret Mead

 

During the height of the COVID lockdown, finding ways to connect with others felt especially challenging. Leaving the home only for necessities meant that so many of us lost the opportunity to find serendipitous ways to connect with others and strengthen our community ties. Lasagna Love provided that opportunity for so many volunteers and recipient families–a way to connect with each other, to see and be seen when so many of us were huddled inside our homes with our families.

 

Throughout my months of volunteering with Lasagna Love, I have had the opportunity to connect with many families in my community that I had never met before. I’ve driven to parts of my city I’ve never seen, discovering new places to enjoy along the way. I’m the only one in my family who lives in my community, so strengthening my ties to my community through delivering meals has been extremely rewarding for me. 

 

The power and strength we give to our communities by sharing meals with each other does not have to end just because we are leaving quarantine. The power of a shared meal can continue to ripple throughout our communities across the nation, bringing each of us a bit closer together. Together, we can help strengthen each of our communities by sharing a meal and making someone’s life just a little easier. Together, we can help shape a kinder, more generous citizenry, one meal at a time.