There’s power in food. Any Lasagna Love volunteer can tell you that, but I think most humans know this intrinsically. A simple, home-cooked meal can provide someone kindness, comfort, and a feeling of connectedness during a difficult time. Most often, our volunteers provide meals to families going through daily, individual struggles – the loss of a job, a feeling of overwhelm, recovery from a surgery… these are struggles that nearly all of us can identify with. But over the last year, our volunteers have stepped up to do more. They’ve provided home-cooked meals to Afghan refugees, driven their RV to feed families in the aftermath of devastating tornados, and come together to feed hundreds who lost their homes in wildfires. We are providing comfort not only during times of individual struggle, but during times of widespread tragedy and chaos.
Why am I bringing this up now? In the face of what is happening on the ground in Ukraine, I’ve been struggling the last couple of weeks. There’s the fear and uncertainty around the political element of what’s taking place, certainly, but my heart is also breaking for the families. The families who are fleeing across the border to safety. The families who are staying to fight and defend their homes. My own extended family, still living in western Ukraine. The families here in the US that have relatives in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Luhansk. Just like in the first days of the pandemic, I find myself once again feeling helpless and not knowing what to do. So where do I turn? Once again, to food.
I’m not alone. Food isn’t just a basic human necessity, it’s a universal language of love and support. There are women and girls in the basement of a church near Kyiv tirelessly making varenyki to deliver to local forces. World Central Kitchen has mobilized their operations to feed Ukrainian refugees across eastern Europe. These acts provide essential nourishment, sure, but so would MREs. Meals cooked from the heart do more. They have the potential to give troops hope in the face of tragedy. They can express to refugees that we are here for them and will care for them as human beings. They can comfort someone who may be worried about loved ones caught in the middle of chaos. Food is love, and that love has power.
So what can you do to support the citizens of Ukraine if, like me, your love language is food?
If you live in the United States, you can support local Ukrainian communities that might be struggling emotionally because we have family still in Ukraine. If you live in one of these communities, download and print out our request flier in Ukrainian and distribute it locally. Or, reach out to a local Ukrainian church and see if there’s anyone who could use a culinary hug. Ask your community on Facebook. You can make lasagna, or step out of your comfort zone and learn to make borscht (beet soup) or holubsti (cabbage rolls). I’ll be cooking and sharing my Babtsa’s recipes in the coming weeks for anyone who feels the pull to try something new. No matter what you make, I guarantee you – your meal will mean more than you know.
You can also support the incredible work of Chef Jose Andres and World Central Kitchen, who have operations on the ground in Poland, Moldova, and Romania, and Hungary. Jose Andres isn’t just running things from an office; he’s on the ground with his head chef. He was in Poland a few days ago, and yesterday morning arrived in Lviv, Ukraine. He’s making sure that refugees have real food, made by the real hands of real people.
Lastly, if anyone reading this has friends or family in the Eastern European countries that border Ukraine – and if there’s a chance they would like to cook and deliver home-cooked meals to refugees – please put them in touch with me at [email protected]. We are actively evolving our efforts to support Ukrainian refugees in the best way we know how and would love to continue to grow our global community of chefs and kindness ambassadors.
Follow @wearelasagnalove to stay up to date on our efforts, and know that as Lasagna Love stands for kindness, Lasagna Love stands with Ukraine and her families.