Local cooks celebrate National Lasagna Day year-round
Lasagna Love volunteer Joe Allen prepares lasagna in his Crafton home.
By Elizabeth Perry
Crafton resident Joe Allen faced a challenge that could only be met with Bulgarian sheep’s milk cheese.
Allen volunteers with the organization Lasagna Love, a non-profit connecting hungry people with local volunteers willing to bring them home-cooked lasagna.
That week, Allen made a Halal lasagna for a family which had recently immigrated from Turkey.
“I try to be as accommodating as humanly possible when it comes to their dietary needs,” Allen said.
National lasagna day was July 29, and the Lasagna Love charity marked it with the delivery of hot meals to struggling people all across the country and in our region.
Second Lady of Pennsylvania, Gisele Fetterman, joined Lasagna Love's founder during the two-hour "Lasagn-a-thon" on National Lasagna Day, Wendy Agudelo, media consultant with the organization, said.
The charity was started at the beginning of the pandemic by Rhiannon Menn, a writer, designer and blogger based in San Diego.
Lasagna Love reports it currently delivers, on average, between 2,500 to 3,500 lasagnas each week across the United States, Australia and Canada.
“To date, the non-profit has impacted more than 875,000 lives through the delivery of more than 208,000 meals in two years,” the company said via press release.
Allen, who discovered Lasagna Love a year and a half ago, is no stranger to volunteer work.
He was a full-time volunteer for two years with a Jesuit program in Texas, which is where he met his wife. As he liked to cook, he saw the organization as “relatively low stress, but high impact.”
Volunteers participate as much or as little as they’d like, whether one-time, weekly, or monthly. This flexibility allows each person to give when and how they wish.
Using the website’s portal, Allen submits how many lasagnas he’s willing to make per week and he’s matched with a person requesting a meal.
He’s delivered pans of food to people in his own neighborhood, Mt. Oliver and McKees Rocks.
Allen describes his lasagnas as “slightly higher than Stouffer’s.”
“I don’t think it’s my place to ask why, there was one neighbor who was struggling with depression and couldn’t summon the energy to cook,” Allen said.
The program does not require recipients to prove their need in order to qualify. They simply have to sign up.
He’s created vegan and vegetarian lasagnas, though his basic recipe typically includes meat and Italian sausage along with ricotta cheese, which is forbidden for those who adhere to a Halal diet. Reaching outside his normal sphere of experiences, he found a solution.
“I found there’s a really great halal shop near the Aldi where I shop in Carnegie,” Allen said.
Chris Kachmar, the regional organizer with Lasagna Love heard about the project on the national news in Jan 2021.
“I love to cook, and helping people with food insecurity was something that really appealed to me. We have about 400 volunteers throughout the region, with about 100 being available on any given week to make and deliver lasagnas,” Kachmar said via email.
There is a great need in southwest Pennsylvania, Kachmar said.
“If we had more volunteers we could help so many more families......so that's the biggest thing, getting more volunteers,” Kachmar said.
You can sign up to volunteer, request a pan or learn more about the organization at lasagnalove.org.