Food for the Belly, and the Soul Lasagna Mamas (and Papas) Keep Neighbors Fed during CovidNov 28, 2020 12:57PM ● By Judy O'Gara
Shown is a photo from Lasagna Love’s “Mission New Bedford,” in which regional leaders brought a convoy of meals to needy families. Photo by Stephanie Bergonz
First-time Lasagna Mama Nancy Drinkwater, of Franklin, gets ready to deliver a home-cooked meal to a family in her town.Not only did people come forth to claim the meals, but many others loved the idea and wanted to join in. Thus, the effort, which started in May of 2020, spread into a nation-wide movement, active in 47 states, including 1,000 cities and now supported by over 2,300 volunteers. One of those volunteers is Johanna Georgilas, of Holliston, who learned of the initiative on Facebook. The idea of organizing and delivering meals to families in need, she says, “struck a chord with me; I’m a nurse by background, and I love cooking. It seemed like just a perfect thing, to make a meal for a family that’s struggling. We’ve all been there, whether it’s financial or psychosocial. There’s a lot of families struggling.” Georgilas signed up on the Lasagna Love website, www.lasagnalove.org, in September. She explains how the organization works. “There’s Rhiannon at the top and regional directors for different parts of the country,” explains Johanna. The Regional Director, and locally this would be for New England, directs Regional Leaders, who then direct “mamas” and “papas,” the folks doing the cooking and delivering, in a certain number of cities and towns in their region. “Essentially, a family goes on the website and requests a meal,” says Georgilas, “and they get matched every Monday evening to a lasagna mama or papa.” People in need of meals can note any allergies and dietary restrictions, and mamas and papas, who follow safe food preparation guidelines, have full control over how many meals they will make and deliver in a week or a month, and how far they will travel. Although most deliver meals cooked, some opt not to cook the dinners, assembling them to allow families to cook them in their own time. After her first week, Georgilas shifted into a position of regional leader for the communities of Holliston, Hopkinton, Marlborough, Southborough, Grafton, Upton and Northborough. “I’m really trying to grow this area,” she says. At the time of Local Town Pages’ interview, Georgilas was the first participant from Holliston, and she had just signed one other volunteer from town. Nearby, Bryanna Dall, a 5-year Franklin resident, is the regional coordinator for her area, which includes Bellingham, Blackstone/Millville, Braggville, Franklin, Hopedale, Medfield, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millis, Norfolk, Uxbridge and Whitinsville. Dall signed up in August, after she saw a social media post by another Franklin resident. “I’m so happy that Rhiannon started this whole movement, just by wanting to take care of a couple neighbors,” says Dall, who, raised by a single mom, understand that sometimes a nice hot meal is hard to come by. “I love to cook, and I love to give back, especially when it comes to a topic of food insecurity,” says Dall, “I’ve always found there is such a healing power, being able to sit down for a family meal that’s totally stress-free.” Dall says she sees a diverse range of recipients. “Most are families, but last week I brought food to an elderly couple that never had kids,” says Dall, who has delivered to families struggling with the financial hardship of Covid as well as with the struggle to cook while managing remote learning and working from home. Dall enjoys getting creative with meals, which need not only consist of lasagna. “I’ve delivered trays of chicken broccoli alfredo, and other people do enchiladas and casserole bakes,” she says. “It’s whatever meets the needs of the family that’s nutritionally diverse. I personally like to throw in bread, salad and a treat, especially if there are kids. Other people have done goody bags, cards and flowers.” In fact, those touches, flowers, salad, bread and a treat, are what Franklin volunteer Nancy Drinkwater, added to her first delivery in mid-November. Drinkwater loved the idea of giving back to the community, without asking any questions. “I love to cook, but most importantly, people needed food. Lasagna mamas are not about why you need it; it’s just – you need it,” says Drinkwater. “We don’t judge.” Participating in Lasagna Love provides its own benefit, say these volunteers. “It’s just overwhelming, the feelings that the mamas and the papas get from delivering a home cooked meal; it’s very rewarding,” says Johanna. You can visit www.lasagnalove.org, to volunteer, request a meal for yourself or a neighbor, or even to make a monetary donation to support the effort. “I feel like Covid has almost made people open to the realization it is ok to reach out for help when you feel like the weight of the world is crushing you,” says Dall.