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March 31, 2021

Love + Lasagna = A Caring Community with Rhiannon Menn, Founder of Lasagna Love

Love + Lasagna = A Caring Community with Rhiannon Menn, Founder of Lasagna Love

In this episode, Corinna Bellizzi guides a conversation about food scarcity, hunger and community stress. These are challenges many people face every single day -- and problems that have only been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rhiannon Menn,...


In this episode, Corinna Bellizzi guides a conversation about food scarcity, hunger and community stress. These are challenges many people face every single day -- and problems that have only been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rhiannon Menn, founder of Lasagna Love joins the show to talk about caring for people in our communities and showing love through making and giving food to those that need help. We talk about incredible people who have been brought together through a love of food, community and giving.

 

About Our Guest - Rhiannon Menn:
Rhiannon Menn is a mama, chef, and adventurer. She loves decaf coffee, traveling, and super fuzzy sweaters - which she unfortunately can no longer wear since she left New England. After the birth of her second child she had an epiphany: when she took good care of herself, she was much better at taking care of those around her. She founded Good to Mama as a way of changing the narrative about what it means to be a mom. In 2020, prompted by the COVID-related struggles of families in her community and her own feeling of helplessness, she founded Lasagna Love. A platform that connects neighbors for home-cooked meal delivery, Lasagna Love has transformed into a national movement of kindness, impacting thousands of volunteers and recipient families each week.

She is a graduate of Berkshire Community College, Brown University, and MIT Sloan, and is a StartingBloc fellow and Siebel Scholar. She has been featured on the Today Show, the Kelly Clarkson Show, in the Washington Post, and on SouthernLiving.com. She lives in Kihei, HI with her husband, two (soon to be three) children, and is relentlessly petitioning for a cat.

Guest Websites and Instagram Links

https://www.lasagnalove.org
Instagram @wearelasganalove

https://www.begoodtomama.com
Instagram @begoodtomama

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Transcript

Corinna Bellizzi: Hello fellow do gooders and friends i'm your host kareena busy and activist and cause marketer who's passionate about social impact and sustainability. In this episode we're going to talk about food, the need for food, food scarcity and hunger, these are challenges, many people face each and every day. And so many more are facing now during the code pandemic we're going to talk about caring for people in our communities and showing love through giving. We will hear about incredible people who have been brought together through the love of food community and giving we are going to talk about lasagna love. I'm thrilled to be joined today by the accidental founder and Chief of lasagna love and that's my parlance not hers. Rhiannon Menn is an experienced consultant who works on the nonprofit public and private sectors. She has spent her career helping organizations address critical challenges she's passionate about social impact, and when COPA 19 hit just had to help people in her community. As a result, lasagna love was born, so today we're going to hear all about the impact of lasagna love who put Community first. Rhiannon, welcome to the show.

Rhiannon Menn: Thank you so much for having me this is wonderful.

Corinna Bellizzi: i'm so glad you're here, you know the messages put into the digital space by lasagna love are so simple and so beautiful, this is a quote from your site feeding families spread kindness strengthen communities sorry Let me read that again feed families spread kindness strengthen communities. When you become a part of lasagna love you're joining a movement, full of people who want to weave kindness back into the fabric of our everyday lives, tell me how did it all get started.

Rhiannon Menn: Oh well, I mean, I think that, even though I don't use that title what you said, accidental founder and chief as it's appropriate because lasagna love was a big accident it's I mean it is. So this all started back at the beginning of the pandemic, which I can't believe is almost a year ago, at this point where we got back. To San Diego we were abroad, we came back I think 24 hours before they close the borders and everything in California just shut down when we got home. And you know we saw it, we saw challenges in our own business going coming to a standstill, but we were hearing, I was hearing stories from other moms in my community. Some of them lost jobs early on, some of them all of a sudden had kids at home and we're like how am I going to work remotely and what does that even look like, and now I have kids 24 seven and is it safe to go to the grocery store. And just so many feelings of stress and uncertainty and I wanted to do something, but volunteer opportunities were also shut down you couldn't even at that point, find a blood bank to go to and so. I just sort of started to think okay well, what do I love doing what can I contribute and my passion is cooking I love cooking it's my happy place. So it felt like a really good place to go during this time of stress and uncertainty, and so my toddler and I just started making extra meals. And we posted to a few moms groups on Facebook saying hey if you're struggling, whatever that looks like for you, let us drop off a meal to you. Contact list it'll be safe and um it's interesting because I was expecting the response from from mom saying like yeah sure like please come by that would be awesome but I wasn't expecting. Other people to get a message saying hey like I don't need a meal, but are there other enough families to go around i'm feeling helpless to how can I, how can I like help my community. And so it really grew organically where it started with just you know me and some arena, and then we had 10 women in San Diego and then 50 and then. People in other cities seeing their friends posts that they were cooking lasagna is for neighbors and saying that sounds like a great idea. And so grew very much city by city person by person to where we are now, which is over 20,000 volunteers in all 50 states with an incredible volunteer leadership team and we've delivered. Over 30,000 meals and we're matching anywhere between like two and 5000 families a week, which is just mind boggling to me.

Corinna Bellizzi: Well, you know I think about that you know, the thing that you said at the beginning of your explanation here that you basically put it out there to say anybody who needs help. And I think that's an important distinction because right now I mean it can be a very challenging thing to admit that you even need help, like myself personally, you know I often find i'm perhaps the last to raise my hand and say I could use some assistance right like you get so used to in this mom mode just doing and helping everybody and go go go that there may be a point where you just feel crippled and at that point you don't know necessarily who you can reach out to so. i've been in those you know mommy groups on Facebook and the late hours of a night scrolling through and seeing initiative similar to this not exactly the same. But I mean really also saw then that women were reaching out to one another and saying well, what can I do Oh well, do you need laundry picked up I could take care of that or you know i'm running errands can I support you, because some people even had limited transportation, or they had something just come up where they suddenly couldn't get to where they needed to go so. I just I think that's really great so I wondered if that was a conscious decision at all, or if it just kind of happened organically.

Rhiannon Menn: You know i'm not sure if it was conscious it just felt like the right thing, so I think there's a couple things that you said that really resonated one is yeah there's a stigma around asking for help and, especially, I think, among parents and especially among moms where we put pressure on ourselves or it comes from society where we're sort of supposed to be able to do it all, and if we can't do it all ourselves without asking for help, we failed and we internalize that and so. For moms especially it's very hard to say you know what this is a lot and yeah during the pandemic word there's a lot of research there's a lot coming out there's some articles recently about. The emotional Labor on moms and parents and the number of moms and parents who have had to voluntarily leave the workforce it's estimated about 1.4 million, because all of a sudden, now they have childcare responsibilities and they're trying to do, distance learning and they're trying to navigate all this and it's just too it's just it is too much, and so I you know I think I think struggling right now, most people when they think about struggling they assume financial need. Right and lasagna one of our core values is there, we have zero judgment, if you. If you feel one we want to empower you to ask for help, because we know how hard it can be so, how do we make it easier and that neighbor to neighbor connection it's sometimes easier to say yes to a neighbor than it is to try and go sign up for a food bank or nonprofit or like it's easier to say yes to someone who offers help and to go out and ask for it, so we try and make it super visible and and very much like. You know we're here share this widely anybody who needs help sign up. But the second piece of that is really around being zero judgment and saying struggling does not just mean financial ever but especially right now struggling means i'm burned out. My mental health is suffering i'm overwhelmed I just don't have time to make dinner tonight because all of this stuff is happening and I don't have mental space or the energy to stand in the kitchen or i'm immuno compromised and i'm honestly scared to go to the grocery store so we've heard so many different reasons why people have have reached out and we want to make sure that no matter what struggling means to you, it really is struggling in your words, not in anybody else's definition of the word, but in how you identify and what what struggle is for you in this moment coven related or not.

Corinna Bellizzi: Right well I think back to what happened last spring, and for us our daycare shut right so suddenly our three year old and our six year old have to be home with us. I was in the middle of graduate school I work for two clients my husband works full time and thankfully I work from home, but I mean having the kids home and trying to do that, at the same time, would have been impossible, so I had to reach a hand up and say. Hey “friend of mine who just moved across the country” would you want to maybe move in with us and help me take care of the kids. And she had literally just moved to Florida and she's like well I just moved here thinking, I was gonna you know get a job working in a restaurant or something and now they're all shut so. Yes, i'll come back across the country to live with you and thankfully, we had the space we could make it work, we were able to cover her finances and give her a stipend for taking care of our kids right. And had enough space to make that happen. But if I had not been able to do that my entire life would have been kind of turned upside down, I would have had to stop working I would have had to stop going to graduate school because suddenly my child care options did not exist. So, when you say that number 1.4 million, I think that number is actually under reported because of all of those individuals who might be like myself who worked for myself who you know I don't you know get a paycheck from anybody. Right, so that changes the statistics right it changes the statistics of who's affected by unemployment to. And, thankfully, you know, by the end of six months, the daycares are open again and we're able to go back to some sense of normalcy in fact my son is going to start in person kindergarten next week which i'm just thrilled. Because he needs that you know their their instruction via zoom is just. Not it right like he's he's struggling learning to read and we're trying we're doing whatever we can to support, but you know it's it's different it's not like a college kid or a high school kid learning over zoom which also isn't always ideal. So I thought about that moment and I was like you know, there are moments, where, if I hadn't had that in home support, I would have been on at my wit's end going like I can't cook another meal, I want to supply healthy food, so I would absolutely have been a consumer of this product, you. Know asking for some lasagna love. So, as far as this what you've shared so far, you said over 30,000 meals have been delivered, but you're talking about a lasagna tray.

Rhiannon Menn: Right.

Corinna Bellizzi: A meal is it was on your tray so that's like eight meals or more… 

Rhiannon Menn: Depending on how old your kids are probably.

Corinna Bellizzi: I mean, My husband is like you know, two servings of them at least, and I have to say it's one of my favorite comfort foods so as you got started with these lasagna is did you think about expanding into anything else, like well, maybe we'll do taco night.

Rhiannon Menn: We know it's come up and we even though it's called lasagna 11 lasagna is still very much at our core, I think, for the reason you mentioned me it feels like a comfort food it's there's something about lasagna that just says like hey I made this from scratch, I care. it's warm it's cheesy it's you know you you eat it and you feel better you eat as a family it's like a picture, like a big you know Italian family around the table all like joking and passing stuff so there's. I mean lasagna definitely is a symbolic in a way. But also, you know is tasty and a comfort food, but we have plenty of people who are volunteers who don't want to make lasagna who don't like lasagna who have family recipes. And so, a lot of people have branched out, so we have some people who make enchilada us we have people who will make mushrooms do what people who do vegan meals or chicken dies, so we do like kind of change it up, and we also have people who have been cooking for at this point, a year, and you know might be a little bit bored of making lasagna so there's definitely a spectrum, but we try and. You know, work with the family, to know okay like what you know what are your allergy restrictions what works for you are you okay with me to make something that's not lasagna so if their heart was set on lasagna for the reasons we talked about, then that's definitely what they get, but we have started to branch out at least like a little bit not like officially, but you know people here and there will, will do other dishes which is nice.

 

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Corinna Bellizzi: yeah well I think about the things that make lasagna great it's always better the second day like when you really hate it. it's like all the tomatoes or more sweet and it just is so divine. But a lot of people also have dietary restrictions so like that's one of the things that got me thinking about like Oh well, I guess you have some limitations, because well you're not going to get past the gluten you're not going to get past the cheese there's a big you know plant based movement, so I wondered if you had like plant based mama's coming into the fold saying you know we're gonna go ahead and do this a little differently and make something that's a vegan.

Rhiannon Menn: I actually have made and we have moms that are chefs who have made us i've made a vegan and gluten free lasagna using assign made cashew cheese from scratch. The mozzarella we you know did something we did like a tofu scramble and place of the ricotta we used lentil noodles instead of the regular pasta noodles and it made it tastes good, it is for sure possible or i've also done zucchini noodles in place of new of like the regular lasagna noodles and it's awesome so lasagna is so flexible there's so many different pieces that you can pull and replace that I, you know I think there's there's a lot, a lot of opportunity.

Corinna Bellizzi: yeah definitely now if somebody was interested in getting involved and making some lasagna or maybe enchiladas or getting that special soup together that family recipe, how do they go about that.

Rhiannon Menn: So it's super easy, which is part of I think why it's grown so quickly is that it's been we've made it very accessible, so if you're interested in volunteering. Go to lasagna love.org there's a button on our website to volunteer you fill out a form and basically just tell us what works for you, so how often do you want to cook how many families do you want to cook each time. Do you want to just make like regular lasagna or Could you also do vegetarian or dairy free or you know, do you have a kitchen that set up for none allergies. So you put all that information in and that we we sort of store that and then every week. We run like a matching process where we match volunteers with families and we do that, based on how far you're willing to drive and what you said you were willing to cook and did you sign up to cook this week, once a month once a week and so it's super super easy, and then we have a Community on Facebook, where you can ask questions and it's a ton of just really kind generous amazing people who are all here because they because they do want to weave kindness back into their communities and they do want to help families, and so you get you get that piece of it as well, but it's super easy.

Corinna Bellizzi: Now, you mentioned that matching process, and I know that sounds like it could be an administrative nightmare so i'm wondering if there are some technological tools that you're using to help make that process easier.

Rhiannon Menn: we've had to, so I think one of the one of the really crazy things is just how quickly we've scaled and how how quickly we've had to put systems into place so. You know I think ordinarily a nonprofit as time like a movement has time to grow, whereas we were kind of thrown into the fire were back in September, we had 500 volunteers and then. We were on the day today show, and all of a sudden, we had 5000 volunteers, which is a lot sorry, and so we you know originally when it was just me and a few people I had built a whole system on like Google sheets and the tools that I knew right. But with that kind of growth, we had to really think through Okay, what are what are like the true technological like innovative solutions that we can do to replace. All of the man hours that are going into matching because it's really nice to be that connected to the process but also not sustainable, we want to. Keep up with how many people want to be involved, and so we built an entire software for a volunteer software portal that. Now that's that's the portal where everybody signs up through to volunteer it's where recipient families sign up if they'd like to receive a meal. We partnered with an amazing group of graduate students at MIT who wrote an algorithm for us that often that basically automates the whole matching process, so it looks at the data from both sides. And says Okay, this week, like here are the two to 4000 matches based on driving distance and allergy requests and who signed up and all of that and optimizes and tries to make sure, as many people get fed as possible. we've been amazing volunteer software developer, who built the whole portal for us and his wife is a regional leader in our organization, and so I mean a couple interesting things one, yes, the technology right like we had to have that.

Corinna Bellizzi: Right.

Rhiannon Menn: Is it perfect no, but is it infinitely better than Google sheets yes.

Corinna Bellizzi: Well, because that would have been really difficult to scale, and it would have been perfect where the algorithm is going to be closer to perfect so it'll be more likely that something won't get overlooked or you'll minimize the drive time that each person has because you've matched better. Right that's the whole thing.

Rhiannon Menn: yeah so it's definitely increasing efficiency but also it, we can we can match people across the entire United States in about two hours.

Corinna Bellizzi: Whereas that used to tell.

Rhiannon Menn: You know that would take a couple hundred man hours if we were still trying to you know actually like look at Google maps and see how far you guys are from each other and drop things into a spreadsheet and copy and paste so.

Corinna Bellizzi: wow well that's really great to know and i'm just i'm curious how long it took to go from the more manual process to this newer more innovative one, even with all of those volunteer man hours.

Rhiannon Menn: Let me actually so we started with we had the idea around probably September, October, I think we started actually building the tool in November, and then we launched in January, so the whole the whole prospect, the thought process to actual launch date was probably three or four months. Just actually really tough to where it's really like forever to us so, because every week that it wasn't ready we're like oh my gosh we're doing this and Google maps again.

Rhiannon Menn: But.

Corinna Bellizzi: Well, I can only imagine because i've done that to track like sales cycle like for a broker REP or whatever and and there were tools available, so I could just go ahead and load all my broker addresses into you know. A maps application that would then show how far each of their accounts were from their house and I could then optimize territories or look for new gaps, where I needed to hire someone else same basic thing, but that software was expensive, and so I was just trying to figure out how you might have been able to accomplish this in such a short time, I mean you basically start it up and then Bam you know within a matter of months you're serving how many dishes a week like on a weekly basis you've said you've delivered 30,000 lasagna has.

Rhiannon Menn: Roughly yes, so I mean we used to be so, you know around in the early days, we were around 100 a week and then you know somewhere around November we started to hit 1000 a week and now we're we're we're matching close to 4000 a week.

Corinna Bellizzi: wow okay.

Rhiannon Menn: But I think that's that's the theme that I noticed keeps coming up in lasagna love and is. And part of what's enabled us to grow so it's not just it's not just the software itself, but this idea of like i'm calling it fractional volunteer leadership right, so we have so many volunteers with incredible skill sets. Who are excited about donating their skill sets to lasagna love, rather than just their time making lasagna so we had a software developer happy to build this we have volunteers who have held leadership in in huge organizations who have volunteered to be regional directors and help like get a whole part of the country going. We have volunteers in marketing and branding and partnerships, who are now our business development team right so like we whereas most wears many organizations. Basically, can only grow at the same rate that they can pull like getting fundraising we've been able to grow exponentially, because we have. You know, an incredibly strong volunteer leadership team of people who are donating high high level skills to help move us forward and make strategic decisions and it's a really powerful model that I wonder if we're going to see more of.

Corinna Bellizzi: Well, this touches on some of the topics i've covered in earlier podcasts like when I was actually interviewing a good friend of mine violet analyze it and she started this company called the giving cake right and all the profits from the cupcakes she makes go to local charities in Santa Cruz county she started it because she felt like she had to give back. In much the same way that you started lasagna love, because you felt like you had to give to your Community right like the same sentiment is there. And at the end of that interview, I was asking her what can people do what can they do to give get involved, I mean, is it just donating their time and she's like absolutely that's it right. Because you have skills that other people might not that are not for profit in your area. Hey they might not be able to afford to hire somebody for those skills, but they still need the work done and they need the work done as much now as they did last week, and last year. So, the reality is that I think because of the straits that we've been in people are motivated to try and give back again to really get us to a space where we're seeing each other's seeing ourselves and each other as part of the same community partially because we haven't been able to get together and hug and party, and you know have that Barbecue and feel connected in the same way that we might have before yeah, so I think now is the time to get involved and the message I keep hitting on as we continue recording these shows is just that. You know, one person can make a big difference, I mean you are proof of that with lasagna love you have basically started the momentum of this entire wave of lasagna right like this is an ocean of lasagna I can't even imagine a warehouse full of 30,000 lasagna is would be quite something to see you know. Right and that's that's just amazing so yeah absolute really Hats off to you i'm I want to give a nod to all those software developers the MIT students and the volunteers who work to make this happen for you, because. My God it's not for you, I don't mean it that way, but you know for lasagna love yeah fantastic. I'm given that you're running this primarily as a volunteer organization today, I wonder if you see that changing or morphing as the you know the organization becomes a little more developed and seasoned.

Rhiannon Menn: Sure, I think that we're always evolving and I think we're having to answer questions like this, as we grow so you know, in the beginning it was just me and then it was me and a couple of people who were willing to organize in their own states or communities, and now we have a volunteer leadership team of over 250 people from local leaders on up to you know business development directors and I think we will continue to be a primarily invite volunteer driven organization and that's part of the power of what we do. So and that's not to be that's, not to say that we don't have a court when we do have a core staff of people who are paid. But we can be much more strategic about where we put the limited funding that we do have so we'll look for positions where. Were we were not able to find that skill set in our volunteer pool or you know we needed we truly need a 40 hour commitment and it's not fair to ask the volunteer to commit 40 hours a week was sort of no no break. Right and so, then those those positions are certainly evolving as we grow and we're having to grow our core team, but I think, given our size. When the beautiful things is that we're able to run so efficiently we're able to run on such on much less capital than. The many people in the space, because we do have this amazing group of volunteer leaders who are contributing expertise and a significant amount of time, I mean, some of them donate. You know, two or three hours, but some of them are are donating 15 or 20 hours a week and that's just that's that that's what we run on is there an easy as.

Corinna Bellizzi: That effect is powerful to I mean i'm sure within their communities there you know out there, talking about what they're doing and getting other people involved to or just encouraging them to be a part of the change. They want to see too so that's fantastic now if you knew what would happen come September in the beginning, what might you have done differently.

Rhiannon Menn: it's an interesting question so you know i'm thinking back there's there was just like a a huge learning curve in the beginning, like there were so many days, where I just felt like. Like I couldn't even keep up with the pace of growth, like we had people wanting to come on and i'm thinking Okay, well, I have a finite amount of time, but like we'll figure it out sure. So I think if I had if I had had the visibility into what this would turn into I, I think the thing I would have done differently would be try and keep us a couple steps ahead. So those systems were in place when when we were on the today show when we were on the show when we did have that explosive bunker to growth, like we were recruiting volunteer leaders to be in place before we needed them instead of like. Okay. We have like well here's who like who can take that on and late, and you know, even though we had we might have had a week visibility into okay well you know cool new PR story we better get ready, but that's not the same as having you know, a month or two or six months to really plan for growth, so I think most organizations are like okay Well, this is how much we've grown so like here's our trajectory will probably be here by the end of 2020 or 2021. You know, we if we had been able to say you know beginning of 2020 to end of 2020 here's what we would look like, we would have been able to be much more strategic about planning for that, and that would have been a huge difference and might have gone a lot more smoothly, but um you know it's also you know the whole the whole like I think we've talked about like my my I have strong feelings around mindset and, like the mindset around like just saying yes and being open to possibility and not seeing problems as problems. And so I think that really enabled me to to sort of see every one of these challenges and just say okay we're going to be calm and figure it out as we go. You know, things would have been chiller.

Corinna Bellizzi: Well, I think I think it could have been chiller, but I also think about the authenticity, with which you started this whole effort, and I think that just. The realness i'm saying this is, who I am i'm a mom and my community, I have a following on social in the instagram world because that's what I kind of do right and then, at the same time, I need to make a change right now and I need to do it it's just got to happen. You put the effort out there you have a little savvy with regard to how social spaces work and you're able to leverage that right. And then all the sudden the floodgates start to open and people were like wait me too me too me too, I want to help. Right like let me help this thing grow so suddenly you've now created this momentum it's like kind of like a a wave that started off as like a little ripple a started to build and and there is almost no planning for that kind of explosive growth right like you could plan for it, and then it might not happen so, then what have you done right like, as well as resources and time so I just think it's beautiful how it came about the intention behind it, the reality that all of these people, essentially got inspired by what you were doing and felt a tangible way that they could help support other people in their communities by just doing the same thing it's just beautiful.

Rhiannon Menn: I like what you said about authenticity, because I think that actually is. I mean there's people will ask me well how like How did this grow this fast, how did you do this and there's I don't think there's a formula, I think that I think the fact that it was just me doing something genuinely I think that was part of the inspiration. And I think if I had you know sat down and said, I want to start an organization that does food delivery I want right like we would have done things differently and we wouldn't have had the same kind of the power behind, just like a mom helping her community, because it would have it would have felt different to the people, seeing the messaging.

Corinna Bellizzi: yeah and I also wonder if something might have crept in like you know the thought of Oh well, who are you going to give to. Right, who is that person going to be and let's let's paint a picture of what they look like you're formalizing it yeah what you did was say. Anybody who says they need help me help period and i'm going to help those people and that suddenly erases this whole Okay, what is the archetype i'm serving?

Rhiannon Menn: there's no market segmentation there's no.  Right yeah.

Corinna Bellizzi: it's just if you say you need help you need help period here. You know, raise your hand and we'll do it.  And so there's something that is just it's like it erased all the red tape cuts through the bs and said, you know hey we don't need all that let's just go. And I think that story really appeals to me, fundamentally, I mean I left a job that I was you know top dog APP for a long time and earning a really great income and people around me were like, why did you leave the job and i'm like well you just go and you make it.  And I felt that way, I felt like you know, sometimes you just have to have a change and you're not sure why, and I just needed to go and make it and make whatever that future was going to be.

Rhiannon Menn: I love that.

Corinna Bellizzi: So really nice work, I want to give a round of applause to all of the many volunteers that have made this effort happen that have made it as successful as it is today. And all of those people who raised their hand and said I need help you know you don't know what the other effects of that are perhaps you were less stress that evening, perhaps you were better with your kids I mean I think we've all had these moments are a little frazzled and didn't ask for help and had a really awful night for that you know and then what was a ripple effect from that, on the other side somebody shows up at your House with a lasagna, i'm betting you had a good evening i'm gonna say. So, are there any questions that you wish i'd asked that I haven't or anything that you would like to say in closing.

Rhiannon Menn: I think the only thing and we touched on this a little bit, but you know the thing that surprised me, I can tell you this from the stories that we hear from volunteers, that being a part of lasagna love is just as impactful for them, as it is for the families that we deliver to. So you say you know dropping off a lasagna to somebody who's struggling like that you know there's an emotional impact that night. Their their life is a little bit easier, they didn't have to worry about dinner they feel cared for and loved and like they're part of a community. But we also hear tons of stories from volunteers about how being a part of this has given them purpose has helped with their own mental health during the pandemic has given them a community. And I think that's really powerful and I think what we're very much broadening from we're not just a meal delivery program anymore it's a it's a kindness movement that has an impact on genuinely every single person who's involved, whether it's the family or the volunteer. And we're starting to see that kindness have a network effect where we get stories from recipient families now saying. Oh, like I had leftover so I brought them to my 93 year old neighbor who's homebound or just this past week we had a gentleman email saying thank you so much for the lasagna it was delicious. I actually ended up paying my neighbors heating bill upstairs as a way of paying it forward so we're we're just we're hearing that this this lasagna love yes it's about food and connecting but it's also about. Putting kindness out into the world and watching it watching it spiral watching it ripple watching it grow. And I think that goes back to what we said, at least at the very beginning of really weaving kindness back into the fabric that's how we're going to achieve that is one one lasagna delivery, at a time, but then seeing what that does in the future.

Corinna Bellizzi: Well, the metaphor, that you just shared of weaving it back weaving kindness back into the fabric. i've always felt that way about making lasagna because when you make a lasagna it's almost like you're weaving with noodles. And it's just such I think an eloquent way to think about you know, making food or making a meal and the same sort of thought comes to mind for me. When I do something like make enchiladas right it's the amount of tactile touch it's like you're literally putting your physical love into the food that you're making  it's not something that's just magically happens and a half an hour like you have to Pre cook the noodles and then you, you know lay to them out after doing the layers of regatta and everything else and it's just a beautiful expression of kindness and expression of love, so I think choosing lasagna was probably a very wise choice. Isn't a wonderful lovely food to make. It feels like you're giving even as you're making it and perhaps us the Italian and me. But I think it's universal it's it's it's a food that takes that kind of physical Labor to it, just like you know the enchiladas.

Rhiannon Menn: I agree.

Corinna Bellizzi: So any other sound bites you want to leave before we move on.

Rhiannon Menn: No, I really appreciate the conversation and I I love talking to you it's just so many cool things come up with me connected.

Corinna Bellizzi: yeah we'll have to do it again I want to hear about where things go in the next six months, because this whole coven thing isn't over, and I am a firm believer that this movement is here to stay.  

Rhiannon Menn: I agree.

Corinna Bellizzi: So now i'm going to link to lasagna love.org and the show notes and you'll see an update on our action page detailing how you can get involved with Lasagna Love.  Just go to care more be better dot com and click on action. I invite all of you to join the conversation and be a part of the Community we're building here, you can follow us on social spaces at care more be better or just send us an email at hello, I care more be better calm. And remember this podcast is not backed by people or companies that we feature our purpose is simply to put more good into the world. If you like what we're doing you can support the show by sharing it with your friends or by donating directly on our site just visit care more be better.com and click the donate button. Thank you listeners for being a part of this pod and this Community because, together, we really can do so much more.

Rhiannon Menn

Founder of Lasagna Love, Blogger and Creator @begoodtomama

Rhiannon Menn is a mama, chef, and adventurer. She loves decaf coffee, traveling, and
super fuzzy sweaters - which she unfortunately can no longer wear since she l eft New
England. After the birth of her second child she had an epiphany: when she took good
care of herself, she was much better at taking care of those around her. She founded
Good to Mama as a way of changing the narrative about what it means to be a mom. In
2020, prompted by the COVID-related struggles of families in her community and her
own feeling of helplessness, she founded Lasagna Love. A platform that connects
neighbors for home-cooked meal delivery, Lasagna Love has transformed into a
national movement of kindness, impacting thousands of volunteers and recipient
families each week.

She is a graduate of Berkshire Community College, Brown University, and MIT Sloan, and
is a StartingBloc fellow and Siebel Scholar. She has been featured on the Today Show,
the Kelly Clarkson Show, in the Washington Post, and on SouthernLiving.com. She lives
in Kihei, HI with her husband, two (soon to be three) children, and is relentlessly
petitioning for a cat.