As National Volunteer Week continues, so does our celebration and recognition of a few of our many incredible volunteers. Through phone and email interviews, we are sharing a glimpse into the lives of the people who make Lasagna Love tick.
Our next feature is a spotlight on one of the very first Lasagna Love volunteers: Angela R. from California. Angela cooks approximately twenty lasagnas per week and has delivered over 750 lasagnas to date. We spoke with Angela to learn more about her history with Lasagna Love and what inspires her to continue the amazing work that she has been doing for over a year now.
Angela has been volunteering with Lasagna Love since the very beginning. If you’ve read about or seen Rhiannon speak about how she initially (and accidentally) founded Lasagna Love – it all started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with Rhiannon and her daughter making extra meals for those in need in their community. Her cooking efforts grew as neighbors and friends started getting involved. They grew further when Rhiannon began using Facebook to spread the word. That is exactly where Angela comes in. Rhiannon posted on a local Facebook group to see if anyone needed meals – and Angela wanted to help cook.
Angela grew up in the food industry and knew that with her knowledge and experience she’d be able to help also make meals for families who needed them. Angela’s normal weekly deliveries consist of 20 lasagnas cooked in batches of four at a time. Knowing how to cook with many different ingredients and how to cook in bulk to keep costs down has helped Angela to produce meals at such a high volume each week.
Working in the healthcare industry, Angela’s career is demanding and requires many hours – especially amidst a global pandemic. While she’s been able to strategically plan her cooking days to produce many lasagnas, Angela was struggling to find time to also deliver the lasagnas to 20 families each week. This is where the spirit of Lasagna Love comes in. Friends, old and new, reached out to Angela to help with her weekly deliveries. One friend was remodeling her kitchen so she was unable to cook lasagnas herself for a period of time. Another friend just simply is not fond of cooking! But the need for deliveries still gave these individuals a role and an integral part of spreading kindness in their community.
Lasagna Love provided Angela and her friends and colleagues with the opportunity to serve to their strengths. There is no one-size-fits all position – there are many ways to contribute that you may not even think of at first! “A huge part of volunteerism is really reaching out to understand what people’s needs are,” Angela said.
Every single part of Lasagna Love is an equally important piece (think back to our house analogy from our last blog). Many of Angela’s friends and colleagues felt very fortunate to have the ability to stay and work from home during the pandemic. To further help support Angela’s efforts, some of them contributed by supporting the costs of making lasagnas.
“An important thing to recognize about this opportunity is that everyone has a role – whether it’s contributing through donations, or delivery, or cooking, or organizing – there’s a role for everyone in a grassroots organization like Lasagna Love,” Angela explained.
When speaking about why she joined Lasagna Love and how she promotes the organization to others, Angela explained that her motivation is focused on spreading awareness of food insecurity in the United States. “It’s important to realize that food insecurity is real,” she said simply. Since many of Angela’s colleagues are in the medical field, they all kept their jobs during the pandemic. Even if they were working remotely at home, there was still plenty of work to be done. That wasn’t the case for so many people in this country and across the globe.
While Angela was able to use social media to share about Lasagna Love and its mission, she feels that it is most important to spread the awareness and the realness that is food security in our world today. She explained, “I felt social media was an important vehicle to bring awareness about a very serious problem in our country. The fact that people wanted to help beyond that was lovely and an afterthought.”
In her experiences as a Lasagna Chef, Angela has shared this opportunity with her six-year-old daughter. It was very important for her daughter to learn and understand what food insecurity is and to understand what it means for families that don’t have the same things as her own.
On a lighter note, Angela also explained that with her background, she also gets to teach her daughter valuable lessons in the kitchen: “And I also get to teach her about food safety! My masters is in microbiology and I grew up in the food industry so I’m a complete freak about that!”
In addition and prior to Lasagna Love, Angela has also volunteered her time as a Program Coordinator and Coach for the Special Olympics. That particular opportunity gave her a new understanding and perspective of how vital it is for volunteers to be involved in supporting organizations. She explained the importance of not just being involved in an organization but being involved and supportive in your community as well.
Through her career as a pharmacist and in any additional ways she can, Angela has also helped organize COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in her area. Some of the early vaccination clinics were the most emotional and impactful. There was a woman Angela remembers in particular – she was teary as she was getting her vaccination, because she hadn’t left her house in over a year. This woman and others like her are the reality and the stories Angela and her colleagues are seeing every day. She remarked that it’s impactful to see the results of what they’re doing locally and looking at the numbers across the county with vaccination percentage rates.
When we asked Angela if she could share an impactful interaction she’s had in her time volunteering with Lasagna Love, she shared the story of a man who she had matched with where his family only had $40 each month leftover after expenses to spend on food. “Hearing that has had a huge, lasting impact,” Angela said.
As one of the very first volunteers to join Lasagna Love, Angela knows a tremendous amount about the organization. She shared advice for anyone who is considering signing on to help:
“Everyone has a role in giving back to their community. I think one of the biggest things to remember is to not go into this with expectations. Sure it feels nice that I can say that I’ve made 750 or 1,000 lasagnas, but you can’t go into it with the expectation of recognition or even the expectation of even someone saying thank you. Because if that’s why you’re doing it, you might not get it and you might be sorely disappointed. That’s a big piece to remember. It has to be something you’re doing because you know it’s the right thing.”
If you’re interested in spreading kindness in your community, learn more about ways to get involved at Lasagna Love.