By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Wendy Agudelo
Rutherford residents have proven time and time again that they understand how to take care of one another in times of need. Whether collecting clothing for families that have lost their homes in fires, collecting monetary donations for those suffering from a serious medical condition, and so much more. Especially during the pandemic, Rutherford families assisted one another by donating food. Molly Yearick is the Regional Leader for Lasagna Love, a volunteer program that provides meals to families for a number of different reasons. Lasagna Love is a program that continues to support families in need of meals within the community. This is Rutherford spoke with Molly about Lasagna Love and the amazing volunteer work that they do.
TIR: When did you become involved with Lasagna Love?
Molly Yearick: I have volunteered with Lasagna Love for over a year as a cook as well as being the Northern NJ Regional Leader. I work with all of the Lasagna Chefs in 4 counties including the group of more than a dozen amazing cooks in Rutherford!
TIR: Where did you learn about Lasagna Love?
MY: I first heard about Lasagna Love during the summer of 2020 when founder, Rhiannon Menn, was featured on The Today Show. She shared that she began cooking meals for neighbors in need during the beginning of the pandemic. I connected with her story, as I love to cook and bring people together over a home-cooked meal. To me, there wasn’t a better way to reach out to support others. Lasagna is warm, comforting and also goes a long way. Rhiannon’s efforts and passion to spread kindness blossomed into a nationwide movement today, of over 20,000 volunteer chefs, cooking and delivering more than 4000 meals a week. Over 500,000 people have been fed by Lasagna Love since its inception.
TIR: What is the mission of Lasagna Love?
MY: The mission of Lasagna Love is simply to feed families, spread kindness, and strengthen communities. Volunteer cooks prepare lasagna (or another home-cooked dish) and deliver it, free of charge, to the doorstep of a local family who has requested a meal.
TIR: How do people request a meal for either themselves or someone who might need a meal?
MY: Requesters can confidentially sign up every 30 days to receive a meal, no questions asked, on the LasagnaLove.org site. (Recipients can also be “nominated” by others directly on the site.) LL understands that needs look different in every household- financial, health-related, and emotional needs are all equally important to our chefs. Dietary restrictions and special requests are also accommodated. Matching is completed weekly by local regional leaders, pairing requestors with cooks available. Lasagna Love chefs are truly a neighbor helping neighbor team.
TIR: How can someone volunteer to provide a meal?
MY: Volunteers can easily sign up through the LasagnaLove.org site. (We are always looking for more!) They need to complete brief online training associated with safe food preparation and share how often they wish to participate. Our chefs cook as much or as little as desired-whether one time, weekly or monthly. This flexible model allows each individual to give when and how they wish. LL has successfully united more than 20,000 volunteers from all walks of life, disseminating invisible barriers created by gender, age, race, politics, or social-economic background, through its shared purpose. We are actively cooking in Rutherford, the state of New Jersey, and across the US, Canada, and now Australia!
TIR: Not everyone feels confident enough to prepare a meal for another family, how else might they be able to support Lasagna Love’s incredible efforts?
MY: Those that don’t want to cook, but want to support this cause, can donate directly to the organization on the LasagnaLove.org site. These donations make it easier to reach more families in need. LL also welcomes support from local businesses in the form of in-kind or financial donations.